On April 9, Israel held its general elections, also known as the Knesset elections. Held every four years, these elections are very significant. They can signal the end or beginning of a prime minister’s term, who is chosen by Knesset leadership. This election cycle, incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced off against his former army chief of staff Benny Gantz. However, as of January of this year, Netanyahu has been dodging constant corruption charges, damaging his reputation as a politician. With his reelection chances now jeopardized, the hopeful prime minister pledged to fully annex all settlements in the occupied West Bank three days before the election, thereby politically legitimizing said settlements as official parts of the state of Israel. While this promise may have been an effort to garner support from right-wing voters and his nationalist base, the pledge is utterly reckless, alarming and extremely dangerous — especially since he was indeed reelected.
It has been internationally known and recognized that Israeli occupation of lands east of Jerusalem, such as the West Bank, have no legal validity in the eyes of most nations and international institutions like the United Nations. However, for the last two decades, the Israeli government and banks have encouraged and funded the creation of new neighborhoods in Palestinian lands, allowing for Israeli citizens to live in these lands under the guardianship of a military presence. Not only this, but the rise of settlements has sprouted the construction of illegal civil infrastructure like schools. Nation-states that uphold the legality of these settlements, such as Israel and the United States, pose a major obstacle to the vision of two states living side by side in peace and security within internationally recognized borders. Netanyahu’s promise to annex illegal settlements inherently opposes the concept of a two-state solution. When asked on Israeli Channel 12 TV, Netanyahu was firm on his vision of state expansion: “Will we go to the next phase? The answer is yes. We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty.”
According to the World Human Rights Report, security forces killed 189 Palestinian demonstrators, including 31 children and three medical workers, and wounded more than 5,800 with live fire between March 30 and November 19 of 2018 alone. As reported by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Anti-Defamation League, Palestinian terror attacks killed a total of 1,194 Israelis and foreigners and wounded 7,000 between September 2000 and August 2010. Evidently, a lack of a clear and concise peace process between Israel and Palestine has promoted the death of thousands of innocent people and will continue to do so into the future.
According to Karen Laub of The Washington Post, “an Israeli annexation of large parts of the West Bank is bound to snuff out any last flicker of hope for an Israeli-Palestinian deal on the terms of a Palestinian state on lands Israel captured in 1967” and will ultimately dwindle any last chances for a two-state solution . Netanyahu’s thoughtless pledge to expand Israeli borders into Palestinian territory will without a doubt spark a new wave of tensions and conflict, moving away from any cooperative goal. Enough Arabs and Jews have been killed already; a promise to annex settlements is by all means a promise to escalate tensions in an area considered the most sacred region on Earth.
David Hatami is a freshman majoring in political science.