On the occasion of the swearing in of the new government on Sunday, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his intention to annex the West Bank. Israel’s belligerent attitude keeps adding to existing tensions in the region, encouraged by the unconditional support it receives from the occupants of the US White House and Congress, notable recent examples including Israel’s declared intention to permanently annex the Syrian Golan Heights, complete impunity for Israel’s regular missile attacks against targets in Syria and massive and selective bombardments of the inhabitants of Gaza, and the transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
The new ‘unity government’, formed after protracted negotiations with his political rival former army chief Benny Gantz, was sworn in after receiving a formal vote of confidence from the Knesset (Israel’s national parliament), ending almost a year and a half of political stalemate and paralysis. Although the power sharing agreement stipulates that each party will appoint a similar number of ministers and they will have a mutual veto power over most major decisions, it appears that Netanyahu got the best of the deal as he will be prime minister for the first 18 months. Will Gantz get the opportunity to take over the prime ministership in 18 months? A lot can happen in that time…
Netanyahu lost no time in signalling his determination to continue pushing Israel’s territorial claims well beyond the internationally-defined borders. He was quoted in a report by the Asharq Al-Awsat news agency as declaring during the parliamentary session that his government should apply Israeli sovereignty over the illegal West Bank settlements inhabited by around 400,000 Israelis in the occupied Palestinian territory, saying:
“It’s time to apply the Israeli law and write another glorious chapter in the history of Zionism.” He was quoted as claiming that the annexation “won’t distance us from peace, it will bring us closer.”
The latter statement seems far removed from reality, a point that was made clear by King Abdullah II of Jordan just days earlier in an interview with German news outlet Der Speigel, during which he stated that any attempt to annex parts of the West Bank “will lead to a massive conflict with Jordan.”
The official website of the King’s Royal Hashemite Court elaborated on this point on Friday:
Asked about the impact of Israel potentially moving forward with the annexation of parts of the West Bank, the King said it could lead to a massive conflict with Jordan.
“I don’t want to make threats and create an atmosphere of loggerheads, but we are considering all options. We agree with many countries in Europe and the international community that the law of strength should not apply in the Middle East,” His Majesty added.
He reaffirmed Jordan’s position that “the two-state solution is the only way for us to be able to move forward,” and urged all countries in the region to focus on collective efforts to fight coronavirus instead of provoking more conflict.
King Abdullah II further stated: “Leaders who advocate a one-state solution do not understand what that would mean. What would happen if the Palestinian National Authority collapsed? There would be more chaos and extremism in the region.”