Starting from July 1st, Israel was expected to initiate the annexation of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, in what would be a major – and highly controversial – act. Detailed in US President Donald Trump’s “Middle East plan” released in January, the move was announced as part of the agreement that returned Benjamin Netanyahu to office as head of Israel’s national unity government in May. Questions are mounting over whether Israel may delay the deadline for annexation.
Over the past 20 years the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been put in the background, not to say almost avoided, within Israel's political and public debate. Undoubtedly this was one consequence of the fact that the Oslo Process culminated with the half-failure of the Camp David summit. Even more, however, the debate was watered down by the attitude of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who made ambiguity and the status-quo the guidelines defining his position on the Palestinian issue.
Warnings from the Arab world against the Israeli government’s plan to annex territories in the West Bank have been mounting in recent weeks. Various Arab leaders conveyed, in public and in private, messages that annexation will radicalize Palestinians, damage the peace process, prevent normalization of Israel-Arab ties, jeopardize regional stability, could ignite a religious war, and will be considered a crime.
Israel's plan to annex the West Bank plan is viewed with great concern by Turkey along with the rest of the world. However, unlike other countries, Turkey is more sensitive to this issue. The Muslim majority of the Turkish population has heard and has sympathy for the oppressed Palestinian people in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Turkey has long been following international law with consistent policies, separating Turkey from all the other actors.
That some of the Gulf monarchies, in the past few years, have been quietly but surely interested in normalising relations with Israel, is no longer much of a secret. A convergence of geopolitical visions and interests have encouraged some warming up to the Israeli leadership, first and foremost Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in some Gulf capitals.
The decision making in Egyptian foreign policy reflects the strategic and geopolitical culture of the State. Remarkably enough, it never loses sight of the long-term considerations. Therefore, it is often reluctant to cut the gordian knots. Security considerations are more important than economic and commercial ones. Of course, the president is the ultimate decision maker, but most decisions are the fruit of considerable brainstorming in the regalian institutions and the foreign policy community.
Jordan’s opposition to Israel’s planned annexation of lands in the West Bank has been expressed clearly by King Abdullah II, and his Majesty has left no stone unturned in his mission to declare Jordan’s stance against Israel’s annexation proposals universally.
With the new coalition government taking office in Israel, the Israeli annexation of some West Bank’s territories might become a reality starting from July 1. This initiative, which entails the extension of Israeli sovereignty on crucial areas such as the Jordan Valley and the northern shore of the Dead Sea, has raised widespread regional and international condemnation.
As in other countries, COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses particular to Israel society and governance. These shortcomings are not revelatory. Instead, the coronavirus’ spread shines a spotlight on familiar, systemic issues consistently neglected over the decades.