Making Palestinian Life Impossible: Israel’s Push to Annex the West Bank

In the news section, Jason Ditz points to the recent World Bank report which considers a Palestinian state not viable because “the economy is currently not strong enough to support such a state.” Here, Israeli policy ends up serving as strategy: the persistent military occupation, economic restrictions, and destruction of Palestinian infrastructure – justified by Israel’s “security needs” – is making Palestinian statehood impossible.

The push to annex the entire West Bank has accelerated as of late. Earlier this month, the Israeli government’s Levy Committee made headlines when it concluded that Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank should be retro-actively legalized (in effect, to appropriate the territory into Israel proper). This was shocking in its boldness and absurdity, but it was not new.

Right-wing politicians in Israel pretty consistently argue for annexing existing (and illegal) Jewish settlements in the West Bank, while ramping up construction of new ones. In February, the Likud Party pushed a bill in the Knesset that would annex more than 60 percent of the occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank. The plan, introduced by former Yesha Council Director Naftali Bennett, would unilaterally end military occupation in the section of the West Bank designated by Israel as “Area C” and fully apply Israeli law there. Israel would then “naturalize” some 50,000 Palestinians from the seized territory.

Such initiatives have not been successful because, as The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg has written, “The right-wing wants the land, but not the people.” The better option, Israeli policy seems to judge, is to smoke them out.

If the economic warfare that has strangled the Palestinian economy for so long has now made an independent state impracticable, then Israel gets everything by default. Similar strategies have been employed in Israel’s aerial bombardment of Gaza. Bombing Palestinian roads, farms, greenhouses, dairy parlours, livestock, chicken coops, and orchards served the purpose of exacerbating the effects of the blockade. Its aim was “the destruction of all means of life.” And in the West Bank, the complex system checkpoints, barriers, and permits serves to harass the population and make ordinary life impossible.

A recent EU report explained how “a combination of house and farm building demolitions; a prohibitive planning regime; relentless settlement expansion; the military’s separation barrier; obstacles to free movement; and denial of access to vital natural resources, including land and water, is eroding Palestinian tenure of the large tract of the West Bank on which hopes of a contiguous Palestinian state depend.” If this erosion can pass a certain point, Palestine becomes moot. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud Party Charter declares Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza as “the realization of Zionist values” and “flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river,” will get his way.