J Street welcomes today’s announcement that Israel is suspending plans to annex parts of the West Bank and that the United Arab Emirates and Israel are taking steps to establish more normalized ties.
This decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu signals a major retreat from repeated threats to carry out de jure annexation, and indicates that efforts to oppose annexation — in Israel, the US and around the world — have achieved significant success. Annexation would be disastrous for Israeli security and democracy and for Palestinian rights. Clarification will be needed that this is not simply a short-term suspension of a disastrous idea, and the United States and the international community should be demanding that Israel commit permanently not to proceed with any unilateral annexation.
The agreement between Israel and the UAE to move toward fully normalized ties is also welcome news for all who wish to see a stable and prosperous Israel living in peace and security alongside all of its regional neighbors. It is just the latest evidence that dialogue and diplomacy, rather than unilateral action and belligerence, are the route to long-term security.
Comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbors in the Arab world, however, will only be achieved through an agreement that resolves the issues at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and leads to the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Steps toward normalization with the UAE are a positive development, but no substitute for a full and comprehensive agreement, bringing peace to Israel and its neighbors.
Finally, while it is good that de jure unilateral annexation is apparently off the table for the immediate future, the harmful reality is that creeping, de facto annexation continues every day unabated. Those who seek a real and lasting peace and security for Israel and its neighbors must continue to advocate for an end to occupation, settlement expansion and ongoing violations of the rights of the Palestinian people – even if the threat of formal annexation is halted.