J Street is deeply alarmed that, in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Prime Minister Netanyahu has formed a new Israeli government that appears able and determined to carry out unilateral annexation of occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank, with the approval of the Trump administration, within just months — beginning as soon as July 1.
Any annexation would be carried out with the deliberate intention of preventing the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel and a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It would be disastrous for Israel’s interests as well as a gross violation of Palestinian rights.
As pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans, we believe that annexation would severely imperil Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, along with the future of the US-Israel relationship. It would likely be accompanied by efforts to reshape Israel’s judiciary and legal code in order to enshrine a non-democratic system denying full citizenship to Palestinian residents of the West Bank. Additionally, it would almost certainly have damaging ripple effects throughout the region, imperiling Israel’s key relationships with Egypt and Jordan.
It is for these reasons that so many US lawmakers and presidential candidates have made clear their unequivocal opposition to annexation. Late last year, the House of Representatives passed H.Res.326, a measure opposing annexation and any efforts to undermine the prospects for a viable negotiated solution. In early March, Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, warned that “Israel…has to stop the threats of annexation and settlement activity, like the recent announcement to build thousands of settlements in E1. That’s going to choke off any hope for peace. And to be frank, those moves are taking Israel further from its democratic values.”
Now, in the short time remaining before July 1, responsible American leaders opposed to the disastrous policies of Trump and Netanyahu should make clear that it would be nearly impossible to maintain the same special relationship with an Israel that abandons a commitment to democracy — and that Israel would face real consequences for carrying out annexation.
At a minimum, they should make clear that the US will not help foot the bill for the implementation of unilateral annexation, and accordingly will consider how to restrict the uses to which US aid can be put by the Israeli government. They should emphasize that Congress and the next presidential administration will not object to due criticism of annexation in the international arena and international forums. And they should consider taking additional steps to ensure that US influence and resources will not be used in any way to further or provide cover for the implementation of annexation.
It is outrageous that the Israeli government and the Trump administration are contemplating such destructive measures even as Israelis, Palestinians, Americans and people around the world are preoccupied with the COVID-19 emergency. Before they cross this glaring redline, they must know that their actions will have major, lasting ramifications.