How Israel is using Coronavirus and Trump Policy to further Annex Palestinian Sovereign Territory
By: John Mason/Arab America Contributing Writer
The Coronavirus in Israel and the occupied territories combined with the machinations of Israeli politics, and the Trump administration-inspired culture wars between Democrats and Republicans over Palestinian sovereignty, represent a formidable obstacle to any sense of peace and tranquility in the region.
News from the Arab Palestinian-Israel region in this period of Coronavirus is complicated. First, is the potential for an absolute demise of thousands of Palestinians by the virus due to the absence of health care solutions in the occupied territories. Second, is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s manipulation of the Israeli political system to ensure a far-right authoritarian government for years to come. And, third is the Trump administration’s dependence on the American Christian-right vote for his reelection based on their pro-Israeli, anti-Palestinian stance.
Benjamin Netanyahu has manipulated the Coronavirus pandemic and the uncertain Israeli political environment to remain in office, consolidate his authoritarian control and move towards Israeli’s settler-colonial agenda
Netanyahu is using the coronavirus opportunity to build his platform for authoritarian control of the country. He is using this opportunity to create tension between the State and the territories and to set up the conditions for further annexation.
United Nations envoy says that economic damage caused by the pandemic threatens Palestine’s “very existence”
UN Middle East envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, has informed the UN Security Council that economic harm due to the pandemic jeopardizes Palestine’s “very existence.” Furthermore, Mladenov warned that any Israeli “moves to annex land and to accelerate settlement expansion, combined with the devastating impact of COVID-19 can ignite the situation and destroy any hope of peace.” This situation is due in part to the fact Israel does not allow the Palestinian Authority access to normal monetary and fiscal tools to deal with the crisis.
Israel is balking in its plans to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in Gaza
Israel is playing with fire by just standing by as two million vulnerable Palestinians in Gaza become await possible infection by the virus. Reports are that the Israeli Defense Minister halted COVID-19 testing there. While the Palestinian authorities had done some testing on their own, there is a significant shortage of testing kits.
Israel is using the confusion of the emergency Coronavirus orders to facilitate its annexation of the West Bank
With few international constraints on Israel and the inability of Palestinians to protest in favor of a two-state solution because of sheltering orders, the possibility is ripe for annexation. Israel’s intent all along has been to annex the West Bank, thus confirming the reality of a one-apartheid-state on the ground.
Netanyahu has been aided in delaying his corruption trial by Israel’s public health emergency
The coronavirus pandemic emergency has helped Netanyahu in delaying his corruption charges until late May. Further, it has enabled Netanyahu in undermining the major opposition alliance against him and to form Israel’s 35th government, with him, of course, in charge.
The agreement to keep Netanyahu in power includes a clause to continue annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank and the Jordan River Valley—a plan blessed by Trump’s vision for “peace and prosperity” for the region
The agreement between Netanyahu and the former opposition party to share power also includes a clause that promotes plans to annex parts of occupied West Bank as well as the Jordan River Valley, both by July 1. Not only has such annexation been part of Israel’s far-right all along, but is a Trump administration plan to seal Trump’s evangelical Christian base in reelecting him. Meanwhile, Israel’s Arab neighboring countries and much of the international community have vehemently dissented on this plan. Interestingly, the Israeli security arm also opposes the Netanyahu-Trump plan.
Despite pro-annexation initiatives, American-based Israeli human rights groups are committed to preserving the need for a two-state solution
Two U.S.-based Israeli human rights groups, B’Tselem, and J Street support a two-state solution. Their support is not helped by the fact that the Israeli Labor Party caved on the new partnership government, thus joining offsetting the balance towards the political right. Both B’Tselem and J Street regret that there is not more opposition to Netanyahu’s agenda of annexation.
U. S. politics has influenced support for annexation vs. a true two-state solution
While Democrats have generally continued to support the traditional bi-partisan position of favoring the two-state solution, Republicans have been swayed by the Trump position of backing Israeli annexation of much of the occupied territories. Thus have they exacerbated the polarized culture wars promulgated by Trump and his evangelical Christian right-wing base. As the Washington Post commented, “Between Netanyahu and Trump, they have made Israel a partisan wedge issue and are destroying decades of bipartisan support.” Again according to the Post, “If there is no Palestine, Israel will be doomed to become a binational state rather than a Jewish one, or else adopt an apartheid system in which millions of Palestinians are ruled by Israel but lack full political rights.”
That would result in a situation that would almost guarantee the unabated continuation of an already-long string of Arab-Israeli wars.
“Coronavirus a gift to Israeli colonization,” Viewpoint, Gopher Central, Maureen Clare Murphy, electronicintifada.net Viewpoint, 4/30/2020
“Israel nears a point of no return,” Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor, 4/29/20
John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.
Check out Arab America’s Blog here!