Israel’s push for annexation evinces its desire to unilaterally create a permanent situation, which would perpetuate and entrench the violation of Palestinians’ rights. This document briefly highlights some of the major impacts Israeli annexation of all or part of the West Bank could have on Palestinians’ rights: The document covers four aspects:
1. Direct violation of Palestinians’ human rights
Freedom of movement – The annexation of large parts of the West Bank to the State of Israel and the application of Israeli sovereignty in these areas would dictate security arrangements and other considerations expected to significantly limit Palestinians’ freedom of movement in the West Bank. Curtailment of freedom of movement could affect both travel within the West Bank and travel abroad.
Violation of property rights – There is significant concern that annexation measures would include mass expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land and that Palestinians whose lands are not officially expropriated, would, in practice, lose the ability to cultivate their lands and make a living from them due to access restrictions.
Further establishment and expansion of settlements – Israeli annexation of all or part of Area C would solidify and perpetuate the settlement enterprise (including unauthorized outposts), and lead to massive expansion. Turning settlements into a permanent feature not only constitutes a continued violation of international law, but also the perpetuation and expansion of focal points for systemic, continuous abuse of Palestinians’ human rights, from land grab to violence.
Threat of expulsion and house demolitions in communities unrecognized by Israel – Israel’s ambition to annex as much land as possible with as few Palestinian residents as possible puts individuals and communities, particularly communities unrecognized by Israel, at risk of expulsion. Once these areas are annexed, Israel could claim members of these communities are illegal aliens in its territory and expel them without difficulty.
The status of Palestinians in annexed territory – The future status of Palestinian residents in the annexed territory is unknown. However, anything short of full, equal citizenship in the State of Israel has potential for rights abuses.
Control of natural resources – Annexation would give Israel exclusive control over natural resources located in the affected areas, allowing it to manage and exploit them without restrictions.
2. International implications of annexation
Israeli annexation of the West Bank is a brazen violation of this prohibition, undercutting international law and eroding its status and the status of international institutions. The annexation of all or part of the West Bank to Israel, with the attendant geographic expansion of the jurisdiction of Israeli institutions to include the annexed area, defies the international community’s policy of distinction in relation to Israel.
3. Changes in government and governmental powers
The removal of the regime of occupation means direct Israeli governance in the annexed territory, without the mediation of the military. In practical terms, the result would be the transfer of powers now held by the military commander to Israeli state authorities. The Israeli government is naturally loyal to Israeli citizens and residents only, and, therefore, to Israeli interests. Whatever status Palestinians living in the annexed territory are given, their individual and collective interests are not likely to be seen as relevant factors for consideration by the Israeli authorities. Annexation would also give Israeli local and regional authorities in the West Bank, in other words, the settlements, a great deal of governmental power. One of the primary, and certain, outcomes would be a boost in development and construction in the West Bank
4. Entrenchment of Apartheid in the West Bank
Annexation would prove Israel is interested in cementing, perpetuating and deepening the existing situation in which, two groups of people live in the territory under its rule and sovereignty: Israeli citizens with full rights and Palestinian subjects deprived of political and other rights, with the Israelis ruling over and oppressing the Palestinians. The institutional, systemic discrimination against Palestinians and the diversion of local resources to Israelis at the Palestinians’ expense, are a distinct feature of Apartheid. Annexation will pull the rug from under the argument, currently prevalent in many circles, that while Apartheid, or at least an Apartheid-like regime, is currently practiced in the West Bank, the sovereign State of Israel is a democracy. Applying Israeli sovereignty to the West Bank would be tantamount to a declaration that there is one regime, rather than separate administrations.