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HomeBlogThe International Community Must Not Remain Silent on Israeli Annexation of the West Bank

The International Community Must Not Remain Silent on Israeli Annexation of the West Bank

Embassy Dedication Ceremony, Source: U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, May 13, 2018

This plan is no longer a settlement policy, long deemed illegal by the international community. Instead, it is simply a massive territorial takeover based on a plan, which neither has international legitimacy nor legality, based on the countless, albeit ineffective United Nations resolutions on the Middle East Peace Process. 

Ferry de Kerckhove, Former Canadian Ambassador to Egypt


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the midst of his corruption trial, has decided to initiate the illegal expansion of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank as early as July, taking advantage of both the enhanced indifference of the international community due to the global pandemic and the one-sided policies of the US President Donald Trump. 

Inspired by the White House support, Netanyahu believes that there has never been a more auspicious time in the country’s history to enshrine the sovereignty of the “Hebrew state” through an accelerated uptick of annexations.

With the recognition of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its undivided capital confirmed by the move of the US Embassy, as well as the recognition of the Golan Heights of Syria as Israeli territory, the Trump administration has developed the most unfavorable disposition towards the Palestinians of all modern US administrations. 

On the Israeli side, this plan is no longer a settlement policy, long deemed illegal by the international community. Instead, it is simply a massive territorial takeover based on a plan, which neither has international legitimacy nor legality, based on the countless, albeit ineffective United Nations resolutions on the Middle East Peace Process. And make no mistake; those annexations would not even grant Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians being enclaved into the territory they would be deprived of.

People must revisit the map of Palestine under the British mandate to realize how years of settlements, abetted by the US and timidly condemned by the international community, have forcefully reduced Palestinian territory to a rump that hosts millions of Palestinians in very dire conditions.

Today, the Palestinian territory – excluding Netanyahu’s planned annexation – represents less than 20 % of the original map with no access given to the sea except for Gaza whose people are barred from the commercial use of the sea on the Mediterranean. The Jared Kushner, senior advisor to President Trump – who is in charge of brokering peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now paving the way for the further extension of Israeli sovereignty over about 30 % of the West Bank, which – despite decades of Israeli settlements – was still presumed to become the territory of the future Palestinian State since 1947.

Is it yet again the continuation of the “law of the strong”, which will prevail despite an international consensus calling for the creation of two states for Israelis and Palestinians? It seems to be the case with the immoral support of the current US President, trampling blatantly on international law.

In the face of the recent well-attended demonstrations in Tel Aviv against the Netanyahu’s annexation plan, the U.S. State Department underscored the terms of the US plan, emphasizing on the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without expansion of settlements “by either side”, the latter point to be a clear insult to the Palestinians whose lands have been stolen.

But it is clear that in the midst of the US elections campaign, Trump will not even consider telling Netanyahu to back down now, especially when the coalition government of  Netanyahu and Benny Gantz agreed on the annexation to proceed next month. The alliance between Gantz and Netanyahu can only affirm Trump’s willingness to ignore the other side of the bargain, even if his government hypocritically, calls for the resumption of negotiations towards what can only be a barely survivable Palestinian microstate, scattered within a large and powerful Israel. 

As for the Arab countries, whose relations with Israel have improved considerably, they will simply mobilize the increasingly powerless Arab League to issue their usual and unanimous remonstrations with nothing more than forceful references to the comminatory resolutions of the United Nations. Jordan is also musing about withdrawing from their peace treaty with Israel, which will ultimately only remain at a rhetorical level. And that will be it! Why? 

Because through its support of its Arab partners against Iran, the US President has achieved two major objectives both at home and abroad. First, he gained himself the title of the most pro-Israel President in American history, while secondly, ensuring that its Arab partners would side with the US to oppose Iran in exchange for remaining silent on the Israeli-American Middle East Peace Plan. 

For the Palestinians, there was never an alternative but to put their faith in their perennially divided Arab brothers while relying on the US support without realizing that after the 1967 six-day war and the Yom Kippur war of 1973, it would side with the Israelis, ensuring that they always have the upper hand against Palestinians. 

In light of Israel’s annexation plan, President of Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas may well denounce the agreement of cooperation with Israel in the field of security, viewed by some as a betrayal of the national cause. Yet, he has very little room to maneuver and challenge Israel. Inexorably, with or without Kushner, Palestine, which has not existed since 1947, may well cease to exist even in the imagination. 

The ensuing apartheid regime, as it is increasingly described, will be intolerable as there is no party on the left in Israel strong enough to defend the Palestinian cause. Consequently, Netanyahu is unfortunately but absolutely right when he says it is the perfect time to carry out annexations.

On the one hand, the European Union, which in principle is the defender of the Palestinian interests, has lost all its leverage with Washington on virtually every level while it is confronted with both the COVID-19 and the tremors of European unification, undermined by the Brexit and Eastern Europe’s illiberalism. On the other hand, the political West is also increasingly absent from the Middle East, the region being now occupied by Russia and other adventurous regional actors.  

In the short-term, Israel’s expansionist policies such as the annexation of the West Bank may make Israel feel more secure but it undoubtedly puts its security and stability at great risk in the long-term. It also leaves the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict with only one viable solution and that is a one-state solution associated with many complexities. Israel’s real long-term security can only be assured when it embraces the reality of Palestinians as their brethren and not their foes whose destiny is to be continuously dispossessed of their lands.


About the Author:

Ferry de Kerckhove entered the Canadian Foreign Service in 1973. From 1981 to 1985, he was Economic Counsellor at the Canadian Delegation to NATO. In September 1992, he was posted to Moscow as Minister and Deputy Head of Mission. In 1995, he became Associate Chief Air Negotiator, then Deputy Head of the Policy Branch and Director-General, Federal-Provincial Relations in Foreign Affairs and International Trade. He was named High Commissioner to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in August 1998. In September 2001, he became Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia. He was also accredited to Timor Leste.

In 2004, he became Director-General of International Organizations. In July 2006, he added to his responsibilities the function of Personal representative of the Prime Minister for La Francophonie. In 2008, he was named ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt. He retired from the Foreign Service on September 23d, 2011. He is an Advisor to the President of the University of Ottawa for Security, Women, and Peace as well as a Senior Fellow at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa, a Fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, and a former Member of the Board of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute.

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On Middle East policy, the Biden campaign had staunchly criticized the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal and it has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier since assuming office in January 2021. However, serious obstacles remain for responsible actors in expanding non-proliferation efforts toward a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. 

This panel will discuss how Western powers and multilateral institutions, such as the IAEA, can play a more effective role in managing non-proliferation efforts in the Middle East.  

Panelists:

Peggy Mason: Canada’s former Ambassador to the UN for Disarmament

Mark Fitzpatrick: Associate Fellow & Former Executive Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

Ali Vaez: Iran Project Director, International Crisis Group

Negar Mortazavi: Journalist and Political Analyst, Host of Iran Podcast

David Albright: Founder and President of the Institute for Science and International Security

 

Closing (5:45 PM – 6:00 PM ET)

Panel 3: Trade and Business Diplomacy in the Middle East (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

What is the current economic landscape in the Middle East? While global foreign direct investment is expected to fall drastically in the post-COVID era, the World Bank reported a 5% contraction in the economic output of the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries in 2020 due to the pandemic. While oil prices are expected to rebound with normalization in demand, political instability, regional and geopolitical tensions, domestic corruption, and a volatile regulatory and legal environment all threaten economic recovery in the Middle East. What is the prospect for economic growth and development in the region post-pandemic, and how could MENA nations promote sustainable growth and regional trade moving forward?

At the same time, Middle Eastern diaspora communities have become financially successful and can help promote trade between North America and the region. In this respect, the diaspora can become vital intermediaries for advancing U.S. and Canada’s business interests abroad. Promoting business diplomacy can both benefit the MENA region and be an effective and positive way to advance engagement and achieve foreign policy goals of the North Atlantic.

This panel will investigate the trade and investment opportunities in the Middle East, discuss how facilitating economic engagement with the region can benefit Canadian and American national interests, and explore relevant policy prescriptions.

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Hon. Sergio Marchi: Canada’s Former Minister of International Trade

Scott Jolliffe: Chairperson, Canada Arab Business Council

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj: Founder and Publisher of Bourse & Bazaar

Nizar Ghanem: Director of Research and Co-founder at Triangle

Nicki Siamaki: Researcher at Control Risks

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The Middle East continues to grapple with violence and instability, particularly in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Fueled by government incompetence and foreign interventions, terrorist insurgencies have imposed severe humanitarian and economic costs on the region. Meanwhile, regional actors have engaged in an unprecedented pursuit of arms accumulation. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have imported billions of both Western and Russian-made weapons and funded militant groups across the region, intending to contain their regional adversaries, particularly Iran. Tehran has also provided sophisticated weaponry to various militia groups across the region to strengthen its geopolitical position against Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel. 

On the other hand, with international terrorist networks and intense regional rivalry in the Middle East, it is impractical to discuss peace and security without addressing terrorism and the arms race in the region. This panel will primarily discuss the implications of the ongoing arms race in the region and the role of Western powers and multilateral organizations in facilitating trust-building security arrangements among regional stakeholders to limit the proliferation of arms across the Middle East.

 

Panelists:

Luciano Zaccara: Assistant Professor, Qatar University

Dania Thafer: Executive Director, Gulf International Forum

Kayhan Barzegar: Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of Azad University

Barbara Slavin: Director of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council

Sanam Shantyaei: Senior Journalist at France24 & host of Middle East Matters

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Abdullah Baabood: Academic Researcher and Former Director of the Centre for Gulf Studies, Qatar University

Trita Parsi: Executive Vice-President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Ebtesam Al-Ketbi: President, Emirates Policy Centre​

Jon Allen: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Israel

Elizabeth Hagedorn: Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor

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Panelists:

Erica Di Ruggiero: Director of Centre for Global Health, University of Toronto

Reyhana Patel: Head of Communications & Government Relations, Islamic Relief Canada

Amir Barmaki: Former Head of UN OCHA in Iran

Catherine Gribbin: Senior Legal Advisor for International and Humanitarian Law, Canadian Red Cross

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Ferry de Kerckhove: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Egypt

Dennis Horak: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Chris Kilford: Former Canadian Defence Attaché in Turkey, member of the national board of the Canadian International Council (CIC)

David Dewitt: University Professor Emeritus, York University

Panel 2: The Great Power Competition in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

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Dmitri Trenin: Director of Carnegie Moscow Center

Joost R. Hiltermann: Director of MENA Programme, International Crisis Group

Roxane Farmanfarmaian: Affiliated Lecturer in International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa, University of Cambridge

Andrew A. Michta: Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at Marshall Center

Kelley Vlahos: Senior Advisor, Quincy Institute

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The security architecture of the Middle East has undergone rapid transformations in an exceptionally short period. Notable developments include the United States gradual withdrawal from the region, rapprochement between Israel and some GCC states through the Abraham Accords and the rise of Chinese and Russian regional engagement.

With these new trends in the Middle East, it is timely to investigate the security implications of the Biden administration’s Middle East policy. In this respect, we will discuss the Biden team’s new approach vis-à-vis Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The panel will also discuss the role of other major powers, including China and Russia in shaping this new security environment in the region, and how the Biden administration will respond to these powers’ increasing regional presence.

 

Panelists:

Sanam Vakil: Deputy Director of MENA Programme at Chatham House

Denise Natali: Acting Director, Institute for National Strategic Studies & Director of the Center for Strategic Research, National Defense University

Hassan Ahmadian: Professor of the Middle East and North Africa Studies, University of Tehran

Abdulaziz Sagar: Chairman, Gulf Research Center

Andrew Parasiliti: President, Al-Monitor