For the first time, key players within the government of Israel are calling for the annexation of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria.

But they’re doing more than talking; they’re acting. Steps are being taken to prepare the public and state institutions for the creeping reality of annexation. Prime Minister Netanyahu does not support annexation, but his passivity is allowing the extremists within his coalition to hijack our national agenda. Why does annexation put the entire Zionist enterprise at risk? Why would annexation disastrously undermine our security?

Annexation would mean the extension of Israeli sovereignty (i.e. the application of Israeli law) to the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. Currently, the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, are under Israeli military administration, but not sovereignty. The implications of annexation—which stands in opposition to international law and domestic Israeli consensus—would be extreme. It would be an earthquake with regards to our economy, civil society, the rule of law, security, democratic norms, and international relations.  

What is annexation? Annexation is a legal and formal incorporation of a particular territory into another political entity (e.g. a state) in order to establish sovereignty over the new territory. In contrast to the handing over of the territory within the framework of a diplomatic agreement or a mutually agreed upon political merger or union, annexation is a unilateral step taken without the consent of the people of the new territory, and as such is deemed a belligerent act and is illegitimate in terms of international law.  

Since the Six-Day War, the legal status of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria has been a point of controversy internationally. Over the years, successive Israeli governments have maintained that the territory is an “areas of conflict” held under “military occupation,” and refrained from applying Israeli law and sovereignty to the area. Proposals for the annexation of the West Bank would turn all of this upside down, with far-reaching consequences that would completely reshape Israeli society, economy, demography and the international legitimacy of the world’s only Jewish State.

The Legal Status of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza: A History in Brief

● Towards the end of the British Mandate, the UN Partition Plan of 1947 stipulated that the areas of Gaza and the West Bank/Judea and Samaria were designated to become part of the Arab state to be established alongside Israel. During the War of Independence, Jordan conquered the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, and Egypt took Gaza.
● In 1950, Jordan formally annexed the territory west of the Jordan River (the “West Bank”) and granted Jordanian citizenship to its native residents.
● In the 1967 Six Day War, the IDF conquered the West Bank/Judea and Samaria and Gaza from Jordan and Egypt, and the State of Israel imposed a military government on the inhabitants. In 1981, the “Civil Administration” was established to manage civilian issues in the West Bank.
● Gaza Strip: As part of the 1994 Oslo Accords, civil control of the Gaza Strip (excluding Jewish settlements) was transferred to the Palestinian Authority, while security remained in the hands of the IDF. Full control over the Gaza Strip was transferred to the Palestinian Authority in 2005 following the disengagement plan, which was executed unilaterally, without any diplomatic agreement or coordination with the Palestinian Authority. In 2007, Hamas seized control of Gaza in a violent military coup (contrary to popular belief, Hamas did not come to power in Gaza through the democratic process, but through violence in the aftermath of the contested Palestinian elections of 2006) and has been in control ever since.

And what about the West Bank?

Following the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, the West Bank was divided into three categories:

Area A: Area A, which covers 18% of the West Bank and includes most of the Palestinian population, is under full Palestinian civilian and security control (with the exception of periodic IDF activity, especially during and after the Second Intifada).

Area B: Area B, which covers 22% of the West Bank, is under Palestinian civil control and Israeli security control.

Areas A and B are administered by a Palestinian legal system that has been in use since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.

Area C: Area C, which covers 60% of the West Bank, is under full Israeli civilian and security control. According to various estimates, there are currently between 100,000 and 200,000 Palestinian residents and more than 400,000 Israeli-Jewish settlers in Area C. The region is administered by a complex legal and justice system, generally under total control of the Israeli military. Due to the settlements, however, Israeli law has been extended to Israeli citizens living in Area C, including taxation, social security and health care, consumer law, and criminal law. Territorial laws, such as zoning laws, have not yet been applied to Area C, as this would represent a unilateral change in its legal status.

This is how things stand: a dual system of law and justice, applied differently to Israelis and Palestinians. It’s a complex system that makes it very difficult to govern in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, but because of the sensitivity of the related issues, and the lack of a clear direction from our leaders, it has been maintained.

Data from Encyclopedia of International Law – Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Gilad Sher Okran Abiram, INSS Insight No. 638, December 4, 2014, INSS ‘Application of the laws of the state on the West Bank: the de facto annexation?’

What steps are being taken towards annexation?