Living under almost-annexation
The 20th Knesset's wave of legislation on the topic of the West Bank hides the fact that the government has no interest in annexation, but only to entrench and perpetuate the regime of discrimination against Palestinians
Abir Joubran Dakwar
Today marks 52 years of "temporary" Israeli occupation of the West Bank, over the course of which many changes have taken place in the way the Israeli government has worked to entrench its control over the Occupied Territories: from the Alon Plan to the separation barrier to the various annexation proposals that arose in the 20th Knesset. Discourse on annexation generally generates noise and national and international headlines. Yet in recent years, the government's prominent pursuit has involved "legal annexation" of the West Bank, which was intended to institutionalize a regime of dual discrimination, of annexation and occupation, and to solidify facts on the ground.
The 20th Knesset passed a series of laws designed to enable the occupied territory, while not legally annexed, to be controlled as though it were annexed. Measures such as the “Regulation Law”, which is intended to whitewash illegal construction in settlements and outposts; the transfer of the hearing on Palestinians' petitions to the Jerusalem District Court instead of the High Court of Justice; application of the Council for Higher Education law to academic institutions in settlements; and the amendment of the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products Law are all intended to administratively turn the Occupied Territories into part of Israel.
This legislation is intended to strengthen the connection of the settlements to the sovereign state of Israel without an official declaration of such and without spurring the consequential wrath of the international community. At the same time, this legislation is not intended to promote official Israeli sovereignty in the occupied territories, thus military occupation regime will continue to apply to the Palestinian population and manage its day-to-day life, as if nothing has changed.
In addition to the fact that these laws are intended only to benefit the settlers and harm the rights of Palestinian residents, both as individuals and as a nation, they also undermine the fundamental principles of the laws of belligerent occupation, which are intended to guarantee the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories.
Palestinians in the West Bank are deemed "protected residents," and thus the State of Israel is obliged to look out for their interests and protect their rights. However, Israeli governments’ national-territorial interests, primarily land grabbing and the construction and expansion of illegal settlements, dictate and shape policy in the West Bank. The Knesset's direct legislation on the West Bank further undermines the fundamental principles of the laws of belligerent occupation and the temporariness of occupation.
Why is the Israeli government afraid to go all the way? Because Israel has no intention of annexing the Palestinian residents living in Area C. No minister even considers granting Palestinians citizenship and the right to vote. There is no desire to grant residents of the Occupied Territories equal education, health and welfare services, or even a basic right such as freedom of movement throughout "one state" between the Jordan River and the sea. The State of Israel also has no intention of allowing Palestinians to manage their own lives.
These legislative attempts are part of a long and troubling sequence of disregarding the laws of occupation. This disregard enabled the establishment of settlements, which led to the systematic and prolonged violation of Palestinians’ rights in the West Bank, and the creation of two separate legal systems that created a regime of prohibited discrimination by nationality.
Fifty-two years following the occupation of the West Bank, the Israeli government is working to institutionalize the illegal situation it created in the occupied territories and to turn its temporariness into something more permanent than ever before.
Attorney Joubran Dakwar is the director of ACRI’s Human Rights in the Occupied Territories Unit