Democracy Now!, SEPTEMBER 12, 2019
Palestinian human rights attorney and an assistant professor at Rutgers University.
fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and a member of the national board of Jewish Voice for Peace.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing worldwide condemnation for vowing to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank if he wins next week’s snap election. The United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union and Russia have all criticized Netanyahu’s plan, which he unveiled Tuesday.
PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: [translated] Today I am announcing my intention to apply, with the formation of the next government, Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Netanyahu’s pledge comes just a week before Israeli voters return to the polls on Tuesday for new elections after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government following Israel’s April 9th election. Netanyahu’s annexation plan would crush hopes of an eventual Palestinian state. Longtime Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the move would add to Israel’s long history of violating international law.
SAEB EREKAT: What Prime Minister Netanyahu said tonight about asking his people for a mandate to allow that will enable him to annex the Jordan Valley is paramount to a war crime. Annexation of occupied territories is a war crime.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by Noura Erakat, Palestinian human rights attorney, legal scholar, assistant professor at Rutgers University. Her new book is titled Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine. And Phyllis Bennis is still with us, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, written a number of books, including Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Noura Erakat, let’s go to you first in Montreal. If you could talk about, just respond to, what the prime minister — who knows how long he will be prime minister? — said — if he wins, he will annex a third of the West Bank?
NOURA ERAKAT: Absolutely. Thank you for having me this morning.
First of all, I think it’s important to point out, as you have, that one-third of the West Bank is the Jordan Valley. It’s the site of the richest sources of water — some of the richest sources of water in the West Bank, including the Jordan River Basin and the Dead Sea, as well as numerous springs. The World Bank has said that if Palestinians actually have access to these lands, it could be the Palestinian breadbasket, increasing their agricultural yield by $1.6 [b]illion annually. We are talking about a rich area where Palestinian farmers, where Palestinians cannot access, for leisure, for livelihood, for home. And this is what’s at stake.
The other thing to point out is that there’s already de facto annexation. A lot of attention is being placed on Netanyahu as he makes more bold and racist claims to his constituent base ahead of elections. But it’s important to know that this is not about Netanyahu. This isn’t even about the Israeli right. This is Israeli policy.
In the aftermath of the 1967 war, Israel declared 60% of the Jordan Valley as a closed military zone and off basis. They built three outposts, military outposts, in 1968 and, under a Labor government, built those into civilian settlements in the early 1970s. It was a Labor, Israeli Labor, minister, Yigal Allon, who declared that the Jordan Valley would be part of Israel’s defensible borders. It was Israel’s dove, Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995, who said that this would be part of Israel’s final borders. And it was under the Oslo peace process that 90% of the Jordan Valley came under full Israeli civil and military control.
What Netanyahu is doing now is basically taking this awful policy, this steady policy of settler-colonial removal of Palestinian and encroachment of Palestinian lands, to its logical end, which is to say, “Well, now it’s just ours.”