Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Ganz. Photo: wikimedia commons Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Ganz. Photo: wikimedia commons

Netanyahu’s proposed annexation shines a light on Israeli apartheid, argues Reuben Bard-Rosenberg

There is increasingly widespread outrage about Netanyahu’s announcement that Israel will formally annex large parts of the West Bank – and do so without giving citizenship rights to the Palestinians living there. 

Under the plans, Israel will formally, and permanently, integrate Israeli settlements – housing hundreds of thousands of people – as well as the Jordan Valley, which accounts for a third of the West Bank, into Israel. The Jewish population of this territory will continue to be citizens of Israel.

The Palestinian population will enjoy no such rights. The illusion that Israel is a democracy with an occupation attached will be very much done away with. And the Apartheid character of the Israeli system will be very clear even to those who are determined to avert their eyes.

What should be made clear is that this end-point is not simply the brain-child of Netanyahu and the Likudnik far-right.  It is consistent with the declared policy of Netanyahu’s coalition partner Benny Gantz, who the BBC describe as the leader of Israel’s “centre left” bloc, in reality a centrist rival to Likud. Back in 2019 Gantz declared:

“The Jordan Valley will remain our eastern security border, but we will not allow the millions of Palestinians living beyond the separation fence to endanger our security and our identity as a Jewish state.”

Let me translate. The Jordan Valley is the side of the West Bank furthest from Israel. Asserting it will remain Israel’s eastern security border is asserting that the West Bank will continue to be occupied.

The crucial part however is “we will not allow the millions of Palestinians living beyond the separation fence to endanger… our identity as a Jewish state.” This refers to the issue of Palestinian citizenship.

Once the occupation of the West Bank is openly described as permanent, it raises questions about the status of the Palestinians living there. Recognising them as citizens would shift Israel’s demographic balance. Gantz’s position was always that Israel will continue to rule them without allowing them to be citizens, so that the Jewish character of the nation state could be maintained.

What this reflects is that the logic of Apartheid is woven through mainstream Israeli politics.

Fortifying the Jewish character of the Israeli nation state has always taken precedence over the civil and human rights of the millions of Palestinians who were living in the territory when Israel was created.

This was true when Palestians were expelled en masse during Israel’s war of Independence. And it is true today, when Israeli leaders once again say they want territory but they do not want Palestinian citizens.

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Reuben Bard-Rosenberg

Reuben Bard-Rosenberg is a socialist activist and radical folk music promoter.

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