Annexation Project in the West Bank Proceeds Apace

Jun 07, 2023 03:18 pm

From the very early days, the current Israeli occupation government has formulated one of its most confidential plans to resolve a fundamental aspect of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, represented in the West Bank. This plan aims to address the issue of Palestinian presence and the geographic space that shall be allocated to Palestinian communities, including cities and villages. It also involves annexing the remaining parts of the West Bank, which constitutes approximately 60% of the total West Bank area, including the Jordan Valley region. The Jordan Valley serves as a separation area between the West Bank and the Hashemite Kingdom and comprises approximately 28% of its area. Additionally, the plan aims to fully connect the settlements in the West Bank with the cities of the occupation entity within the 1948 occupied territories.

Netanyahu, therefore, who affirmed that the annexation plan would remain undisclosed and non-negotiable, made significant amendments with the approval of his coalition partners. Extremist Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich was entrusted with the entire settlement file in the West Bank and East Al-Quds. He was granted authority over the "Area C" within a special department in the Ministry of Defense, separate from the jurisdiction of the defense minister. A new department called the "Settlement Directorate," headed by Smotrich, was established to oversee the infrastructure of settlements. This effectively gives him control over the two entities as coordinator of "government activities in the territories" and the "civil administration," which makes decisions regarding the settlement enterprise.

Netanyahu has identified what lands in the West Bank to that should be practically and legally annexed. These areas include settlements and their "vital" surroundings, which include almost 140 arbitrary outposts, as well as the bypass roads connecting settlements. Moreover, this annexation plan encompasses the "security" areas that include the Jordan Valley and the southern part of the Hebron governorate, military zones, nature reserves, and areas devoid of Palestinian residents.

What highlights Netanyahu's pre-mentioned plan, which is currently being implemented on the ground, is the annexation of what is referred to as "state lands" according to the Israeli classification. These lands include around 120 nature reserves, covering an area of over 2,100 square kilometers (37.8% of the West Bank's total area). 

The Israeli occupation has classified the first part of these lands as "state lands". These lands covering an area of 634.9 square kilometers (11.2% of the West Bank's total area) were registered as state lands during the Jordanian era, and were inherited by Israel through its military occupation of the West Bank in 1967, according to their interpretation. Regarding the second part, covering 843.9 square kilometers (14.9% of the West Bank's total area), it was declared by the Israeli government as state lands after 1979. Additionally, there are 666.2 square kilometers (11.7% of the West Bank's total area) for which registration plans have been prepared after surveying, and measures are being taken to register them according to Israeli laws. Therefore, the total area of the so-called state lands, according to the Zionist definition, amounts to 2,145 square kilometers (37.8% of the total area of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem).

One of the new-fangled strategies used by illegal settlers to seize lands in the West Bank is the establishment of livestock or plant farms. They start by planting trees or raising cattle, sheep, and chickens, converting these areas into new settlement outposts. Settlers are thus provided with mobile caravans, water sources, and electricity by settlement associations. The Jordan Valley region in the eastern West Bank is particularly targeted through this method, as it is considered the "food basket" of the West Bank and a rich source of groundwater.

The current Israeli occupation government, deemed as the most extremist in the Israeli history, is estimated to persists in its annexation project. It aims to accomplish this within two-three years, without a public announcement or internal turmoil, based on the assumption that there is a Zionist consensus regarding the annexation project. Consequently, the occupation intends to enforce control over more than 60% of the West Bank, transforming Palestinian cities and villages into scattered islands amidst a sea of settlements, bypass roads, and military zones, administered by a civilian Palestinian authority with limited municipal service powers.