Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank will make daily life even more difficult for the Arab Muslims.
On June 23, a young Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli police officers after he allegedly tried to ram his car into one of the many police checkpoints that dot different roads crisscrossing occupied East Jerusalem.
Ahmed Eerkat, 27, was killed hours before he was supposed to attend his sister’s wedding. His family says he had been running errands throughout the day and was murdered in cold blood after a routine accident.
The footage released by Israeli authorities shows the car accelerating and veering to its right before it hit the checkpoint. Whether it was a genuine accident depends on what the Israeli police says - and that’s where things get a bit muddled.
Human rights groups such as B’Tselem point out that Tel Aviv conveniently sidesteps investigations when Israelis are accused of murdering Palestinians.
If Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes ahead with his plan to annex the Palestinian land in the West Bank, then such mishaps and confrontations are destined to increase.
Israel has already carved chunks of the West Bank, the region on the west side of the Jordan River, and the fertile Jordan Valley. Over the years, more than 700,000 Jewish settlers have built homes and businesses on the occupied Palestinian lands.
Now, Netanyahu wants to make many of these settlements part of Israel despite international condemnation. Much of the land the settlements are built on belongs to the future Palestinian state. The West Bank is home to 2.5 million Arabs.
Immediately after what was a difficult election, Netanyahu promised his rightwing Jewish voters that he would extend Israel’s sovereignty over the settlements which are scattered across the West Bank.
He was aiming to make this happen on July 1 but now the proposal has been pushed back as Israeli lawmakers grapple with the legal and foreign policy complications that come with such a move.
“Netanyahu was initially talking about annexing the entire Jordan Valley, but as time goes by this option looks less feasible and he may go for something more limited. He might include some big settlement blocks - the ones closer to the border perhaps,” Dr Nimrod Goren, the head of The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies (Mitvim), tells TRT World.
“I think Netanyahu will go for a limited option of annexation that may not happen immediately on July 1. It could be that he announces his intentions only and actual annexation happens in summer or fall before the election in the United States.”
The Jewish duty
US President Donald Trump is seen as Nethanyahu’s closest ally. In 2017, Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his peace plan for the region already foresees a large part of Palestinian territory as part of Israel.
At the moment, Israel has not declared what the annexation would look like, nor has it suggested what would happen to the tens of thousands of Palestinians who live around the settlements.
Israel is already in control of the West Bank, which it occupied after the 1967 war with its Arab neighbours.
The Jewish settlements are like exclusive colonies equipped with many facilities, including public parks, carefully-maintained roads, hospitals and schools - things Palestinians have been deprived of for years. A road network, specially built for the settlers, connects these places to Israel.
Palestinians continue to live miserable lives under Israeli military control - they are stopped and harassed not just by soldiers but by the settlers who openly carry automatic rifles.
Between January 2009 and April 2020, Israeli settlers killed 28 Palestinians in the West Bank. Yesh Din, an NGO, says in the majority of cases Israeli attackers don't face any charges for assaulting Palestinians and their properties.
Netanyahu has already stated that Palestianisns who will be affected by the annexation, will not be considered Israeli citizens.
“Second-class citizens - that's the best way to describe what the reality of Palestinians will look like,” Antony Loewenstein, an independent journalist, author and film-maker who has been writing about Israel-Palestine for more than 15 years, tells TRT World.
Such a system where a Jewish settler will have all the rights but a Palestinian will not, is undemocratic, normalising segregation and inequality. Netanyahu, however, is the least bothered about it. He strives for political survival and fulfills what he sees as his Jewish duty.
“On the one hand, he’s a political survivor. He’s Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister and would do anything to remain in power including appeasing far-right settlers.
“But he’s also a true believer (in Jewish supremacy over the holy land). He’s a believer that Jewish people have the sole right to control the West Bank and Gaza. And it’s a belief he expressed long before he became the prime minister.”
It was in 1995, when the Israeli parliament was debating the second phase of the Oslo Accord - which was meant to map Israeli withdrawal from the occupied land - that Netanyahu, then an opposition leader, made the famous remark.
“You say the Bible is not a property deed,” he had said shouting at then prime minister Yitzak Rabin. “But I say the opposite - the Bible is our mandate, the Bible is our deed.”
Rabin was killed by Jewish extremist later that year.