Sallai Meridor
Sallai Meridor
Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
The Judean Desert and the settlement of Kfar Adumim

Is annexation really good for the Jews?

Opinion: The cost of unilateral annexation in the West Bank, which would mean alienating allies and partners around the world, outweighs the benefits of diminishing potential risks that might emanate from a future Palestinian state

Sallai Meridor |
Published: 06.17.20 , 23:39
When Benjamin Netanyahu first ran for prime minister in 1996, his campaign slogan was "Netanyahu is good for the Jews."
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  • Now, as he is set to embark on his unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank, it seems an opportune moment to put the same slogan to the test in order assess the costs and benefits of this plan.
    The Judean Desert and the settlement of Kfar Adumim The Judean Desert and the settlement of Kfar Adumim
    The Judean Desert and the settlement of Kfar Adumim
    (Photo: David Saban)
    Is unilateral wide annexation good for the Jews?
    From my home in the settlement of Kfar Adumim, I can see the Judean Desert all the way to the Dead Sea and the road from Jerusalem to Jericho; I have a clear view of the area that separates between the Arab states east of the Jordan River and Jerusalem and Israel in the west.
    I live on the cusp of Wadi Qelt as it traverses the West Bank, separating Judea to the south from Samaria to the north. Indeed, Israeli limited annexation would somewhat diminish the risk that a Palestinian state, if established, could pose a security threat to Israel.
    However, the benefit from annexation is limited. On the one hand, Israel has had control of this land for more than 53 years without having annexed any of it.
    Muslims in East Jerusalem pray outdoors during Ramadan Muslims in East Jerusalem pray outdoors during Ramadan
    Muslims in East Jerusalem pray outdoors during Ramadan, due to coronavirus regulations
    (Photo: AFP)
    On the other hand, a one-sided move is no guarantee that future land negotiations will not include this part of the West Bank as well.
    Despite East Jerusalem being annexed as far back as 1967, Israeli governments negotiated with their Palestinian partners over the city's boundaries, and despite the Golan Heights being annexed in 1981, Israel had held negotiations with the Syrian regime over that territory's future as well.
    Therefore, those who argue that there is zero benefit in annexation are wrong. At the same time, those who claim that there is much benefit in annexation are wrong as well.
    And what of the cost that might come with a unilateral wide annexation?
    In the short term, we may see the deterioration of relations with the Palestinian Authority, resulting in putting Israel’s security and the lives of Israelis at risk.
    זירת הפיגוע בגבעת אסף בנימיןזירת הפיגוע בגבעת אסף בנימין
    Israeli security forces at the scene of a terror attack in the West Bank in 2018
    (Photo: EPA)
    Israel's improving relations with Arab nations – something of much strategic importance - could take a turn for the worse.
    The added potential benefit by annexing our already existing Jordan Valley security strip is not worth risking our relations with Jordan which serve as our much more significant security buffer.
    Additionally, our cooperation with the Gulf States - through the shared strategic need to stop the Iranian threat- could be compromised.
    And what of the impact of unilateral annexation on Israel's standing in the rest of the world?
    Good relations with the president of the U.S. are of major importance, but would it be prudent to rely on this friendship alone?
    Would it be wise to totally ignore the criticism expressed by the probable Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who is currently leading in the polls for the November election?
    בנימין נתניהו פגישה עם אנגלה מרקל ב ברלין גרמניהבנימין נתניהו פגישה עם אנגלה מרקל ב ברלין גרמניה
    Benjamin Netanyahu and Angela Merkel meeting in Berlin
    (Photo: GPO)
    Wouldn’t it be advisable to listen as well to voices from Europe, the market for one third of Israel’s exports, and to warnings of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the head of the only country that has sold Israel its much-needed submarines?
    And this potential harm to Israel's foreign relations and security could be followed by economic damage as well.
    What social services would the state be forced to cut, if revenue from exports is reduced and foreign investments diminish, while security expenses increase?
    Yet the major cost of a one-sided annexation of parts of the West Bank is in the long-term.
    Annexation that would prevent a future separation from the Palestinians would weigh heavily on Israel and could lead to its demise; Israel's Jewish and Democratic nature might be unsustainable when millions of Palestinians are counted among its residents.
    הפגנה מחאה שמאל נגד סיפוח שטחים דמוקרטיה כיכר רבין תל אביבהפגנה מחאה שמאל נגד סיפוח שטחים דמוקרטיה כיכר רבין תל אביב
    Israelis protest in Tel Aviv against West Bank annexation
    (Photo: AFP)
    The cost of caring for millions of Palestinians would also fall on the shoulders of our next generation. How much in taxes would Israelis have to pay to take care of those Palestinians instead of to invest in our own children and those in need?
    And if Israel is forced to live with a prolonged conflict with the Palestinians, won’t we need good strategic relations with many countries, globally and in the region, in order to prevail?
    Proponents of annexation claim they want to secure Israel's future. The major problem is that they try to deal with a chronic disease with a “medicine” that might kill the “patient” - the only state of the Jewish people. Is this really good for the Jews?

    Sallai Meridor is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the World Zionist Organization
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