There is hardly anyone who does not know very well what Israel’s goal is in the occupied West Bank. It wants all of Palestine, including the West Bank. All statements and plans by Israeli leaders regarding annexation have to be viewed in this context.
Subsequent Israeli governments have created, through a host of military laws and policies, the environment in the West Bank that makes it possible to achieve their goals. Moreover, the Israelis want not only to have the land, but also to empty it of its indigenous Palestinian population. As such, the Palestinians need to pause, think and devise a policy to tackle this challenge.
Since the late 19th century, the Zionist movement has made it clear that its objective is to control the whole land of Palestine “from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea”. That old Zionist dream is still alive and permeates Israeli politics. Israel has built its core strategy in Palestine upon that dream, which is why its borders are still undefined.
Before the establishment of the state, the Zionist movement used a variety of tactics to reach its goal of controlling Palestine. Jewish colonies inhabited by Jewish immigrants led to the eventual expulsion of Palestinians from their own towns and villages. It was always a lie for Zionists to claim that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land”.
Ever since Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 1967, it has used the same tactics. There were no Jews living in the West Bank in 1967, but by the 1980s there were 100,000 in illegal colonial-settlements. That figure went up to 365,000 by 2000, and today there are 665,000 illegal Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Israeli occupation authorities don’t hide their intention to raise that to 1 million as soon as possible.
During the Camp David negotiations in 1999, the then Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak talked about annexing around nine per cent of Palestinian land in the West Bank as part of a land exchange. In the 2007-2008 negotiations, his successor Ehud Olmert offered to annex 12.1 per cent of the Palestinian land in exchange for 5.8 per cent of land within Israel. Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now wants to take over 30 per cent of the West Bank under Donald Trump’s “deal of the century”. Controlling Palestinian land is one of the most important tactics used to achieve the Zionist dream of “Greater Israel” in all of Palestine, no matter which party the Israeli prime minister belongs to.
The Israeli occupation has sought to disarm the Palestinians in the West Bank, establish security control over the whole area and be aggressive in preventing any Palestinian resistance. It uses different punitive measures against the people of Palestine who choose to carry out legitimate acts of resistance. Such measures include extrajudicial killings, imprisonment and house demolitions. The Zionist state has not only adopted an assassination policy against Palestinian officials and activists, but has also killed children between 12 and 16 years old. Again and again over the years, children and adults alike have been shot and left to die in front of the eyes of the world. Resistance has thus come to mean martyrdom in the Palestinian mind.
Israel insists that any future Palestinian state should be demilitarised, although security and border controls are two of the most important manifestations of state sovereignty. During its negotiations with the Palestinians in 1999, Barak proposed to deploy Israeli soldiers along the eastern border with Jordan, in addition to establishing Israeli military sites in strategic areas in the West Bank. During his negotiations with the Palestinians in 2008, Olmert suggested leasing the Jordan Valley for a decade, and maintaining security and military sites all over the West Bank. Trump’s deal of the century gives Israel full security control over the West Bank, including the border with Jordan.
In all of this, the plan is to get as much Palestinian land as possible, with as few Palestinians on it as possible, if any at all. In the 1948 Nakba, Zionist terror gangs and the nascent “Israel Defence Forces” drove 800,000 Palestinians off their land at gunpoint — and killed many in the process — in order to build their state. If Israel is to achieve the Zionist dream, therefore, it is likely to take the next step and try to expel the Palestinians from the West Bank.
The evidence for this is already there. In order to reduce the number of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, Israel has been seizing their ID cards and forbidding them from living there if they leave Jerusalem for a specific length of time. Furthermore, the Zionist state has imposed a siege on the Gaza Strip since 2007, and waged three major military offensives, forcing thousands of Palestinians to leave their homes, many of which were destroyed. Jewish terrorist settlers in the West Bank attack Palestinians and their land regularly, and with impunity. They are usually protected by the so-called “Israel Defence Forces” during such attacks. Trump’s deal proposes the expulsion of 300,000 Palestinian citizens from Israel as part of his plan to redraw the border with any future Palestinian state. This idea was raised in the past by right-wing extremist Avigdor Lieberman, a former Defence and Foreign Minister.
A significant number of Israeli Jews agree with their governments’ policy of transferring Palestinians out of historic Palestine. Between a third and a half of Israeli Jews believe that it is “necessary” to remove its Arab citizens from the Zionist state. Most who participated in this particular poll that was conducted by the Israeli Democratic Institution in 2019 also support the transfer of Palestinians from any land that is annexed. The Israeli population is strongly inclined toward the right-wing, and have backed the extremist Netanyahu to be the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israeli history.
The Palestinians now need an urgent national strategy to confront the Israeli plan. It will be necessary to build on their strong capabilities and try to turn their weaknesses into strengths. More than half of the Palestinians are still living in historic Palestine, equal to the number of Israeli Jews, in spite of all Zionist attempts to reduce the Palestinian population and stop their legitimate resistance.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) is still legally valid, but needs to be reformed. Although Israel has succeeded in dividing Palestinians between the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jerusalem, Israel (Palestine occupied in 1948) and the diaspora, the PLO can direct them to work together using different strategies to achieve a single, united goal.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.