July 20, 2020
WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.
ISRAEL; EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
For the last month, I’ve been exploring the implications of the impending annexation of 30% of the West Bank by Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu grabbed President Trump’s coattails and announced on July 1, he would begin seizure of the land in the area of Judea and Samaria. The world reacted negatively, both inside and outside of Israel.
Guess what? Suddenly the grab is gone. What’s happening?
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin has acknowledged in private conversations that no attention is currently being given in Washington to the Israeli plans to annex, according to a Tuesday Army Radio report. As a result, Levin reportedly said, the controversial move will likely have to be placed on the back burner as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not move forward without coordinating with the Trump administration. The US administration’s attention is elsewhere, the report claimed Levin had said, and “it is not listening” when it comes to annexation.
While similar comments have been made in recent weeks by Likud officials who have acknowledged that the spiraling pandemic has forced the attention of world leaders to turn to other issues, Levin is one of only a handful of Israeli officials who have been deeply involved in talks with American officials regarding the Trump plan’s implementation and ramifications.
Levin also sits on the seven-member joint US-Israeli mapping committee that has been tasked with drawing up the exact parameters for annexation that Washington would be willing to accept. The committee’s progress has been slowed by the pandemic, with Netanyahu telling settler leaders that the maps have yet to be finalized. Settler leaders responded angrily to Tuesday’s Army Radio report, asserting that US approval is not needed for Israel to move forward with annexation. “There is no need to wait for anyone. This move depends solely on us. It is time to keep the promises made and apply [Israeli] sovereignty [to the West Bank] regardless of any factor.”
There you have the latest. All of Netanyahu’s huff and puff about annexation went up in political smoke. Israel really depends on American politics to that extent? You bet.
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