Israel's coalition government's plan to unilaterally annex large parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including the Jordan Valley, has provoked widespread international outrage and condemnation.
Annexation of occupied territory is illegal and inadmissible under international law. The Israeli threat, therefore, constitutes an affront to the world community who view it as consistent with the longstanding policy of denying of Palestinian self-determination and the consolidation of Israel's apartheid rule.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the move will write another "glorious chapter in the history of Zionism", the Palestinians are defiant. For them the move means the loss of vital land which had been earmarked for a future independent state; it has also dealt a lethal blow to their dreams of self-determination. As a result, Palestinians have pulled out of previous agreements with Israel and threatened to stop coordination with the occupation state.
As the international community looks on with growing concern, the EU – Israel's main trading partner, accounting for one-third of its total trade – has discussed placing sanctions on Tel Aviv.
In this seminar our panel of experts will examine the various dimensions of the issue.
This webinar was broadcast on 2 July 2020 at 5pm GMT.
Dr Virginia Tilley
Political Science Professor, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
Tilley specialises in the politics of ethnic and racial conflict and has research experience in Israel-Palestine, Central America, South Africa and Oceania. At Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she teaches courses on international and comparative politics. She was a co-author of the UN report titled 'Israeli Practices Towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid' (2017).
Associate Editor, Electronic Intifada
David Cronin is an Irish journalist living in Brussels. He is an associate editor of the Electronic Intifada, a website focused on Palestine. His books include 'Balfour's Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel' and 'Europe's Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation'.
South African Journalist
Shafiq Morton is an award-winning South African photo-journalist, author, radio host and TV presenter at Voice of the Cape. He has covered stories such as the anti-apartheid campaign, the release of Nelson Mandela and South Africa's historic 1994 elections.
Nasim Ahmed is a staff writer and political analyst with the Middle East Monitor. Nasim has been working on Middle Eastern issues for over a decade. In addition to his degree he has an MA in Politics and a second MA on Islam in the modern world.
Background: The West Bank
Between 2-3 million Palestinians live in the occupied West Bank.
The area is also home to around 430,000 Israeli settlers, who live in 132 illegal settlements and 124 smaller "outposts", built under and protected by the Israeli occupation.
Settlements and outposts are deemed illegal under international law, though Israel and the US administration of President Donald Trump dispute this interpretation.
The occupied West Bank was divided into three areas – A, B and C – as part of the Oslo Accords, signed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel in 1993 and 1995.
The deal led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) which was granted limited powers to govern over Areas A and B. Under the terms of the agreement, Area A fell into full Palestinian administrative and security control, while Area B was to be governed by the PA under the military control of Israeli occupation forces.
Area C, which makes up nearly 60 per cent of the occupied West Bank, however was designated as being under complete Israeli civil and security control, leaving Palestinians unable to develop the area of even renovate properties within it without obtaining prior approval from the occupation authorities.
Israel's blocking of Palestinian development in the area is also carried out by "designating large swaths of land as state land, survey land, firing zones, nature reserves and national parks," B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, has said.
In addition to facing severe restrictions on planning and construction, Palestinians are also unable to access basic resources such as water. Many have argued this has been part of a concerted effort on Israel's part to force the indigenous Palestinian population out of the area to prepare for annexation.
Background: The Jordan Valley
The Jordan Valley makes up the eastern edge of the occupied West Bank and runs about 300 kilometres from the Sea of Galilee in the north along the Jordan River down to the Dead Sea. Israel claims the area is vital for its security, allowing it to protect its borders from attacks from the east.
Some 90 per cent of the area has been designated Area C under the Oslo Accords and Israel has barred Palestinians from using 85 per cent of it, according to B'Tselem, "restricting their access to water resources and keeping them from building homes."
The Jordan Valley is a fertile strip of land, and its approximately 650,000 Palestinians residents are often denied access to the main electricity grid and water pipelines, while schools and even tents erected in the area are regularly razed by occupation forces.
Background: US President Donald Trump's 'Deal of the Century'
US President Donald Trump's so-called "deal of the century" was announced on 28 January. It refers to Jerusalem as "Israel's undivided capital" and recognises Israeli sovereignty over large parts of the occupied West Bank.
"The Palestinians, meanwhile, get … not much," The Washington Post said in an op-ed after details of the deal were revealed.
The plan has drawn widespread criticism from the Arab world and was rejected by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which urged "all member states not to engage with this plan or to cooperate with the US administration in implementing it in any form."
Leaders of the Muslim bloc reiterated a need for a just and comprehensive solution that protects the rights of Palestinians.