On Sunday, the Israeli Cabinet approved a series of dramatic steps that would deepen Israeli control over significant portions of the West Bank, while further fragmenting and isolating Palestinian communities from each other. At the same time, the government continues to move forward with its radical plans to gut the independence of the Israeli Supreme Court – one of the only institutions that could stand in the way of its plans in the occupied territory.
It’s time to be clear: This is what annexation looks like.
By moving full speed ahead with the highly unpopular “judicial reform” plans, the government is ignoring the mass protest movement that has brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets. By advancing major acts of annexation, it is blatantly disregarding the opposition of the Biden Administration – and crossing a major red line.
These actions are a direct threat to Israel’s future as a democratic homeland of the Jewish people, and to the US-Israel relationship.
The Netanyahu government announced that it would move to “legalize” nine unauthorized settlement outposts that had previously been considered illegal under Israeli law. Several of them are located on private Palestinian land. The government also stated that it would soon move to authorize a dramatic increase in new settlement construction across the West Bank – potentially as many as 10,000 new housing units.
While Netanyahu and his far-right Cabinet claim that these moves are a response to appalling recent terror attacks against Israelis, the truth is that these acts of de facto annexation have nothing whatsoever to do with security – and will in fact make Israelis less safe.
The government, and the far-right settlement movement in general, have made no secret of their intention to permanently cement their control over the entire occupied territory – and to prevent any peaceful, negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They will seize on any pretext to carry out these plans and maintain their hold on power – even if that means exacerbating conflict and destroying liberal democracy in the process.
This is not a routine moment for polite disagreement – it is a crisis that demands firm, public action. The Biden Administration and Congress must make clear that these actions will have consequences.
They should state that they will not block the international community from holding the Israeli government accountable for its actions under international law. They should act to ensure that no US arms or taxpayer dollars are being used to further Israel’s de facto and illegal annexation of occupied territory. And they should demonstrate unequivocal solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of brave Israelis who are desperately trying to defend their country’s democracy.
J Street and the pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy movement will continue to sound the alarm about the far-right’s radical plans – and continue to give voice to the majority of our community that firmly opposes them. We will not turn away from our Israeli friends and partners who are warning that their country is on the brink of disaster.