What can Is­rael an­nex, and what of Pales­tinian threats?

As ten­sions rise over anenx­a­tion plans, Ab­bas vows to sever se­cu­rity ties

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FRONT PAGE -

OC­CU­PIED JERUSALEM: In the fall­out from the newly an­nounced U.S. peace plan, Is­rael has threat­ened to an­nex parts of the West Bank while the Pales­tini­ans have pledged to cut se­cu­rity ties.

Yet an­a­lysts say both moves could prove harder to im­ple­ment in the short term than an­tic­i­pated.

WHAT COULD BE AN­NEXED?

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump Tues­day re­leased his long-de­layed Is­raeli-Pales­tinian peace plan, which was seen as skewed to­ward Is­rael.

Among a se­ries of pro­pos­als that an­gered the Pales­tini­ans was Amer­ica giv­ing the green light for Is­rael to an­nex the Jor­dan Val­ley and West Bank set­tle­ments.

The Jor­dan Val­ley con­sti­tutes a third of the West Bank, the largest part of the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries oc­cu­pied by Is­rael since a 1967 war.

Pales­tini­ans say such an­nex­a­tion would ef­fec­tively make it im­pos­si­ble for them to form a state.

WHEN COULD AN­NEX­A­TION HAP­PEN?

Af­ter Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment Is­raeli of­fi­cials said the gov­ern­ment would dis­cuss an­nex­a­tion at the cab­i­net Sun­day, while the U.S. am­bas­sador to Is­rael said they could pro­ceed im­me­di­ately.

But Is­raeli of­fi­cials have since ex­pressed con­cerns over se­cu­rity, while Jared Kush­ner, Trump’s sonin-law and chief ar­chi­tect of the peace plan, has called for Is­rael to wait un­til at least af­ter Is­raeli gen­eral elec­tions on March 2.

The Cab­i­net meet­ing Sun­day was can­celed with­out a stated rea­son.

The Jor­dan Val­ley borders Jor­dan and an­nex­a­tion would anger the Hashemite king­dom, one of two Arab states with a for­mal peace treaty with Is­rael.

Kobi Michael, se­nior fel­low with Is­rael’s In­sti­tute for Na­tional Se­cu­rity Stud­ies, said there was “con­cern” among the army and other se­cu­rity forces that it could es­ca­late ten­sions.

The army an­nounced that it was send­ing reinforcem­ents to the Jor­dan Val­ley af­ter the peace plan was re­leased.

“There was a rec­om­men­da­tion by the [mil­i­tary’s] gen­eral staff to the po­lit­i­cal ech­e­lon not to hurry with an­nex­a­tion,” he said.

WHAT IS THE PALES­TINIAN RE­SPONSE?

Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas was in­fu­ri­ated by Trump’s peace plan.

He had al­ready sev­ered ties with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion over its pro-Is­rael stance but Satur­day pledged to go fur­ther and cut all se­cu­rity ties with the United States and Is­rael.

An­a­lysts say such co­or­di­na­tion is vi­tal in main­tain­ing calm in the West Bank, where Ab­bas’ gov­ern­ment has lim­ited au­ton­omy in ma­jor cities.

“The ma­jor chal­lenge for the [army] is a Pales­tinian up­ris­ing which if un­con­trolled – and if you add if se­cu­rity co­or­di­na­tion be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tinian Author­ity stops – would be a ma­jor chal­lenge,” Michael said.

The sec­ond of two pre­vi­ous Pales­tinian in­tifadas, or up­ris­ings, ended in the mid-2000s.

WILL AB­BAS FOL­LOW THROUGH?

Ab­bas has made sim­i­lar threats mul­ti­ple times with­out ul­ti­mately cut­ting ties.

Uzi Rabi, di­rec­tor of the Moshe Dayan Cen­ter for Mid­dle Eastern and African Stud­ies, said 84-yearold Ab­bas risks em­bold­en­ing ri­vals Ha­mas if he fol­lows through with his threat.

Pales­tinian Author­ity forces work with their Is­raeli coun­ter­parts to break up cells of the Is­lamist mil­i­tant group in the West Bank. “For Ab­bas the se­cu­rity (co­or­di­na­tion) prevents Ha­mas get­ting into the West Bank,” Rabi said.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear Sun­day if co­or­di­na­tion was ex­pected to or had al­ready stopped.

“It is a threat­en­ing mes­sage and re­mains a threat be­cause it is not easy,” Pales­tinian po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Ji­had Harb said.

“On the ground we have not seen any­thing yet.”

But Ghas­san Khatib, a for­mer Pales­tinian min­is­ter, said Ab­bas’s lan­guage was more di­rect than in the past.

“Pre­vi­ously they used to talk about form­ing a com­mit­tee to study cut­ting ties or some kind of lin­guis­tic trick,” he said.

“This time he is say­ing we have al­ready no­ti­fied the Is­raelis and the U.S. There were no dis­claimers.”

Khatib said if se­cu­rity ties were gen­uinely cut the Is­raelis would likely re­spond by freez­ing co­or­di­na­tion in other ar­eas, mak­ing Pales­tinian lives in the West Bank far more dif­fi­cult.

About 2.7 mil­lion Pales­tini­ans live in the ter­ri­tory, along­side around 400,000 Is­raeli set­tlers.

Hugh Lo­vatt, an Is­rael-Pales­tine an­a­lyst at the Euro­pean Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions, agreed that “past ex­pe­ri­ence would lead to skep­ti­cism.”

“But while Ab­bas may once again be cry­ing wolf, it is worth re­mem­ber­ing that the wolf did show up one day.” –

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