Instead of the coronavirus pandemic in its most dangerous phase deterring Benjamin Netanyahu and his political allies from continuing their colonial-settler policies — which contradict the international and humanitarian solidarity that the pandemic requires — they and the Trump administration have used it as a cover to start to implement the US-Israel "deal of the century". They have formed joint committees and drawn up special maps for the annexation of Jerusalem, the illegal settlements, the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, which represent 33 per cent of the occupied Palestinian territories. These areas form an integral part of the territories from which the Israeli occupation forces must withdraw if an independent state of Palestine is to come into being.
All that remains is to set a date to announce the implementation of the deal by the US and Israeli authorities. At the moment, the only reason for the delay is the political crisis in Israel, with Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz trying to form a government; the annexation project is at the core of the matter.
Despite the spread of the virus, Israel's occupation authorities continue to arrest Palestinians, raid their cities, towns and villages, detain them at checkpoints and erect barriers, besiege them and kill them in cold blood. Attacks by illegal Jewish settlers on Palestinians and their properties have escalated, while deliberate medical negligence affecting the Palestinian-Israel citizens in the Galilee, The Triangle and the Negev, as well as across the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories, continues unabated.
Moreover, the interim Israeli government led by Netanyahu has not cooperated with the Palestinian Authority to confront the pandemic. Instead, it has destroyed medical facilities and confiscated international medical aid sent to the PA and demanded that the donor countries provide the same for Israel as a condition for allowing it to go to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This happened with aid from Turkey and China, with no respect for international law and the fact that, as the occupying power, Israel has legal responsibility for the wellbeing of the Palestinians in the occupied territories.
The implementation of the "deal of the century" is going ahead despite its rejection by the EU, Russia, China and non-aligned states, as well as the Palestinians. The Secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organisation Executive Committee, Dr Saeb Erekat, has revealed that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been assured by Arab and other friendly states that they too reject Israel's policies and practices intended to pave the way for annexation of Palestinian land. They also expressed their absolute support for the Palestinian people and their leadership.
Neither the occupation authorities nor the Trump administration appear to understand that their plans pose a serious threat to the security of the region and any future peace agreement between the PA and Israel. The PLO and the PA will no longer be bound by agreements signed with the Israelis and can withdraw their recognition of the state, taking the conflict back to square one. At that point, the Palestinian people will not rule out any means of struggle in order to continue their struggle. They will be entitled to use all possible means to restore their legitimate rights.
The international community, including the US, need to persuade Netanyahu not to press ahead with his annexation plans and encourage him to respect international law, work to end the occupation and remove the settlements. Israel must allow the Palestinians to establish their independent state along the 1949 Armistice ("Green") Line which existed on 4 June 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, and to resolve the Palestinian refugee issue in accordance with UN Resolution 194. The world must also understand the seriousness of the fire that is now being lit by the Trump-Netanyahu alliance in the face of international opposition from political, academic and popular organisations and individuals, some of them in America itself.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Addustour on 16 April 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.