Talking annexation with former Shin Bet Director Ami Ayalon: Five Takeaways

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Ben Winsor
on May 7, 2020

This week, former director of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, Ami Ayalon, joined J Stream to offer his analysis of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rush toward unilateral annexation of the West Bank.

Here are five top takeaways from the briefing:

1) Unilateral annexation presents a major threat to Israel’s security

As Ayalon recently wrote in a joint op-ed with fellow former security leaders in the IDF and Mossad, unilaterally annexing any portion of the West Bank recklessly threatens Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, undermines security coordination with the Palestinian Authority and weakens Israel’s ability to deter and prevent terror attacks. “It will create what we call a domino effect,” Ayalon said. “We know how it starts but no one can tell us how and when it will end.”

The former Shin Bet director predicted an immediate and dramatic decrease in security cooperation with Palestinian security forces in the West Bank Palestinian, which he described as a cornerstone of Israeli security. “We’ll see an increase in the level of violence and terror,” Ayalon said. “It will start somewhere in the West Bank along the roads and in the settlements, but later we shall see it more and more in Israel itself.”

2) It’s still possible to stop Netanyahu’s plans

Having previously worked with Netanyahu’s coalition partners in Blue and White, Ayalon said he knows that party leaders Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi are personally “totally against unilateral annexation.” While the current government agreement appears to allow Netanyahu to press forward with annexation on July 1, Ayalon said there remains enough ambiguity that Gantz and Ashkenazi could block it on security grounds. “There is an exit, a very narrow exit,” he said, noting that voices of opposition from the United States, Jordan and Egypt will be central to the decisions they make in the coming weeks and months.

3) Opposition from key voices in the United States will be pivotal

Ayalon believes that criticism from political leaders in the United States will prove pivotal when it comes to the Israeli government’s decision to move forward. If it is clear that there is no bipartisan support for annexation, and that there will be significant ramifications for the US-Israel relationship, the rush to annexation may be stopped in its tracks. “It will create a major impact on the decision of our government and of our people whether you approve it or not,” Ayalon said.

4) Annexation threatens Israel’s Jewish, democratic character

Ayalon is direct about the impact annexation would have on Israel’s status as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, describing Netanyahu’s plans as “obviously” against international law and a violation of Palestinian human rights. “It will totally erase our identity as a Jewish and democratic state with the spirit of our Declaration of Independence,” Ayalon said. “We will not be majority so Israel will be either apartheid, or we lose our Jewish culture and flavor.”

5) A two-state solution remains fundamental to protecting Israel’s future

Ayalon continues to believe that only a two-state solution will ensure Israel’s long-term security as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. “We have to divide this precious piece of land for two people — to keep our identity and to do our best in order to create relations with our neighbors.”

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