Saturday 27 June 2020

The Annexation Trigger

After being treated to decades of spiteful, passive-aggressive anti-Israel spin from Middle East editor Bowen and his subordinates, anyone with a smattering of political and historical knowledge of ‘Middle East affairs’ could rattle off a pretty good case against the BBC.

Last night Yolande Knell treated us to a mawkish, innuendo-laden report on the BBC World Service impliedly blaming Israel for interruptions to Palestinian children’s cancer treatments during the coronavirus crisis - although most obstacles seemed to stem from the P.A.’s latest strategy of refusing to ‘cooperate’ with Israel in answer to the proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank. I wasn’t certain what message she was trying to send to be honest, but I predict a whole lot more mileage will be extracted from that situation ‘going forward’.  

Although criticism of Israel-related reporting is but one factor in a bias-related bigger picture, many bias-watchers regard the BBC’s left-wing/anti-Conservative bias as their chief bugbear and therefore their main target, but in a way, the BBC’s anti-Zionist bias is the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of bias. 

Regrettably, the BBC’s Palestinian-advocacy reporting style has a wide reach. Compare the BBC’s uncritical regurgitation of the Palestinian narrative with the overtly hostile, ‘arms-length’ or even non-existent representation of the Israeli perspective that is routinely dished up by the BBC’s Middle East correspondents. Bog-standard, superficial and shallow reporting, served with ‘half-a-story’ contemporary and historical analysis.

Given that both Britain and Israel are democracies, this attitudinal imbalance is hard to explain. If ‘Palestinianism’ is rooted in (Islamic) religion-based antisemitism, surely a largely secular - or at least a not very religiously observant country like post 60s Britain would see Israel as a natural ally, while instinctively filing overtly racist,’Yahud-hating Palestinians’ as ’other’.  

As non-racist Brits, shouldn’t we at least find the Palestinians’ intractable refusal to accept Israel’s existence a little problematic? Since the opposite seems to be the case, the obvious conclusion must be that this demonisation of the Jewish state stems from the ‘oldest hatred’.

However, the word ‘Annexation’ has triggered a new wave of anti-Israel angst. 

Mark Regev has been Israel’s UK Ambassador for over four years. Here’s a link to his ‘goodbye interview’ It seems like only yesterday that he was merely Israel’s ‘spokesperson’ and his very appearances on the BBC would send the haters into paroxysms of fury.

Palestinians: Is It Really about 'Annexation'? Khaled Abu Toameh offers another perspective on Trump’s plan for peace. He says that the Palestinians’ opposition to annexation encompasses twin objections; the religious one and the political one. According to Islamic clerics and scholars, Israel has no right to exist anywhere in the region, so with that in mind, any legality (or otherwise) appertaining to ‘annexation’ is but a trivial detail, therefore irrelevant to the ultimate objective - eliminating Israel altogether. 

Mahmoud Abbas, whom the BBC persists in regarding as a ‘potential partner for peace’ claims that annexation would destroy any chance of a ‘two-state’ solution, ending all hopes of peace with Israel. According to officials, the plan would irreversibly deprive the Palestinians of their right to establish an independent and sovereign state on the (unsustainable) pre-1967 armistice lines. 

The BBC, being determined to see such disingenuous role-play as ‘the voice of reason’ takes Abbas’s words at face value. But the P.A. is actually with the clerics. Neither strand really wants ‘a state’, or is capable of forming one. Their idea of peace is simply ‘no Israel’. 

True to form, the BBC’s Tom Bateman puts the customary BBC spin on the matter. I don’t know if that was Bateman’s own headline, but whoever penned it is clearly hostile to Israel and sympathises with the Palestinians. Israel annexation: New border plans leave Palestinians in despair

Getting to grips with the complexity of Netanyahu / Trump proposals or analysing the long-term potential is of little interest to Tom Bateman whose job is to promote the BBC’s agenda, which disregards the welfare of the Palestinians. Stuck with their appalling leadership, encouraged to kill Jews by Abbas’s outrageous ‘pay for slay’ policy, and ensuring that the existing stalemate is prolonged indefinitely.

At the present time, while old allegiances in the region are shifting, the BBC’s current anti-Israel animus has been triggered bigly by the word “annexation’. An emotive concept indeed, but what does it mean? That terrible word alone evokes expansionism; land-grab; occupation. But this isn’t the idea at all. 

I don’t claim to be an expert on the legality or otherwise of Trump’s plan for peace, but one thing I have gathered from my research so far is that the idea of ‘annexing’ parts of the West Bank appears considerably less ominous than Israel’s detractors would have us believe.

Here is another piece explaining Trump’s “Deal of the Century”   Israel has the right to annex parts of Judea and Samaria   by Eli Vered Hazan:
“So before explaining what annexation is and why it is imperative, it is important to emphasize a few things: France and the United Kingdom are vocal opponents of the agreement. The United Kingdom, which controls 17 territories, spread over thousands of miles across the globe, is criticising a territorial process in which there is a deep connection between a country and its citizens. France maintains control over 13 colonies thousands of miles away and even uses some of them for nuclear experiments, yet opposes our connection to our historical homeland. Not only that, Turkey illegally invaded and took over Northern Cyprus but threatens Israel over the mere potential of Israeli sovereignty. All of them claim that for Israel “it is not the same”. In fact, they are right – it is not the same.
and from Melanie Phillips
“Under international law, annexation has a precise meaning: the forcible incorporation by one state of the territory of another state. This does not apply to the disputed territories, which never belonged in law to any other state. 
Israel has the only legally grounded claim to this land, including the never-abrogated duty given to the British in the 1920s to settle the Jews throughout what is now Israel, the disputed territories and the Gaza Strip. 
Far from being an illegal annexation, extending Israeli law to these areas actually implements international law after some nine decades during which it was flouted and then ignored by Britain and the world community. It is those who oppose the sovereignty proposal who show contempt for the law.”
If it’s too easy to tar her with the “She would say that” brush, legal expert Eugene Kontorovich, lays out the situation fully in this article: Don’t Buy the ‘Annexation’ Hype (WSJ is behind a paywall, but I will post it in full over the fold.)

I didn’t want to display my ignorance by spouting nonsense about something I know very little about, so I did try to digest as much of the document as I could, and I dutifully watched the interesting (to me) video below. In the end, it seems that the specifics of the annexation plan is still a work in progress.  Also, at the end of the day, the legality is never the main and ultimate clincher when it comes to Middle East policy. Emotion is the real game-changer; hearts and minds and so on.

Even if the annexation ploy turns out to be just one strategic move in a long-term game, and the objective is a genuine, just and lasting peace, the BBC is never going to give us a fully-rounded picture because it is ideologically and ‘institutionally’ opposed to it and not entirely convinced of Israel's right to exist.

Legal situation fully explained overleaf.

By Eugene Kontorovich
June 23, 2020 1:14 pm
Israel is expected to announce as early as next week that it is normalizing the legal status of Jewish settlements in the West Bank by fully applying Israeli civilian law. The U.S. is expected to recognize Israeli sovereignty in these areas, marking the culmination of a series of pro-Israel Trump administration policies, as well as the first step in its vision for a negotiated process that could lead to a Palestinian state.
There are many misunderstandings about the planned move—starting with what to call it. It is widely described as an Israeli “annexation” of West Bank territory, also known as Judea and Samaria. But annexation has a precise meaning in international law: the forcible incorporation by one state of the territory of another state. The land to which Israel seeks to apply its laws isn’t legally the territory of any other state, nor has it been since Israel’s independence in 1948. Neither the U.S. nor the European Union recognizes the existence of a Palestinian state, and Israel’s sovereign claim to the territory is superior to any other country’s. Putting this move in the same category as Russia’s seizure of Crimea is entirely misleading.
There is no one-word name for what Israel plans to do because it is so technical and pedestrian. Israel already governs the territory in question, as it has since 1967, when it liberated the land from a two-decade Jordanian occupation. But at that time Israel didn’t fully apply its domestic laws there, leaving it under military administration. Israel expected the Arab states to sue for peace after the Six-Day War, and it was prepared to transfer some of the land to them. There was no point in hurriedly applying Israeli law to territory that might not remain Israeli after a peace settlement.
The current system of governance was intended to be temporary, but Israel retained it during decades of negotiations, all of which resulted in Palestinian rejection of internationally backed offers of statehood. In the Middle East, nothing is as permanent as the temporary.
Over the past 53 years, Jews have returned to Judea and Samaria, territories from which they had been, to a man, ethnically cleansed by the Jordanians in 1949. Today, more than 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, still governed by an odd patchwork of military regulations. As a result, property is governed by obscure Ottoman land law. Permitting for infrastructure projects is difficult and burdensome. Most Israeli environmental regulations don’t apply. After five decades of Palestinian rejectionism, it is hard to argue that the legal regulation of these communities must remain in limbo until a far-off peace deal is signed.
This doesn’t mean giving up on the possibility of a diplomatic settlement. Past peace efforts have been based on the morally repugnant and impractical assumption that the creation of a Palestinian state must be preceded by the expulsion of all Jews from its territory. The acceptance of an ethnic pre-cleansing was one of the reasons the U.S. had previously opposed the application of Israeli civil law: to make life harder and more uncertain for Jewish settlers and thereby encourage them to leave. President Trump’s peace vision rightly rejects this illiberal notion, which hasn’t been the basis of realized or proposed peace deals anywhere else in the world, from East Timor to Northern Cyprus.
The application of Israeli law wouldn’t affect the treatment of Palestinians. In the West Bank, they would continue to be governed by the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s Knesset wouldn’t rule over them. The Palestinian Authority would also still have a chance to make peace. While all evidence suggests the authority isn’t fundamentally serious about statehood, U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in parts of the West Bank may help bring it to the table. It would show Palestinian leaders that turning down negotiations weakens their hand.
Some Middle East experts say the Israeli move could lead to violence, European sanctions or a reversal of Israel’s warming ties with Arab states. But the same predictions of doom were made before Mr. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and they proved entirely hollow. Critics must explain why this one should be any different.
Others say Israel should desist because its actions would provoke a possible Biden administration. This is heads-I-win-tails-you-lose logic: Israel must accept Democratic policies when Democrats are in office and also when they aren’t. President Obama, by contrast, had no problem allowing the United Nations Security Council to pass an anti-Israel resolution even after President-elect Trump asked him to veto it.
U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in parts of the West Bank comes along with upfront Israeli commitments. Israel has agreed to a temporary building freeze in areas of the West Bank that are under Israel’s jurisdiction but where Israeli law isn’t being extended. This goes beyond what the Trump administration’s Vision for Peace requires. Israel also knows that a future U.S. administration could repudiate support for Israeli sovereignty and recognize a Palestinian state anyway.
Israel’s friends are right to take such concerns seriously: The plan isn’t without risks for Israel. But these can be addressed through a formal memorandum of understanding that would commit the U.S. to recognizing Israeli sovereignty and not recognizing a Palestinian state until the detailed Palestinian prerequisites in the Vision for Peace have been met to America’s and Israel’s satisfaction. Such an agreement between the U.S. and Israel could be written to limit backsliding by the next U.S. administration.
The application of Israeli civil law to Jewish settlements isn’t an annexation or an imposition on Palestinians. It is a long overdue recognition of Israel’s legal and moral rights, a step that can no longer be deferred by the Palestinian refusal to make peace.
Mr. Kontorovich is director of the Center for the Middle East and International Law at George Mason University

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