By Howie Hawkins
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement on Tuesday that he intends to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank to Israel if he wins next week’s Israeli elections would simply legalize an annexation that happened in reality after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
After that Six Day War in 1967, Israel occupied 60% of the Jordan Valley as a military zone and no-go area for Palestinians. Under Oslo accords in 1995, 90% of the Jordan Valley was to come under full Israeli control. Since 1967, the Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley has been reduced from 320,000 in 1967 to 60,000 today as Israeli settlements have grown.
This annexation of the Jordan Valley is not only the policy of the Israeli right under Netanyahu. It has been the policy of the government of Israel under center-left Labor as well as conservative Likud governments since 1967. The main opposition to Netanyahu in next week’s Israeli elections, the centrist Blue and White party, responded to Netanyahu’s announcement by saying he had adopted their policy for the Jordan Valley. In short, Netanyahu’s announcement was more an election ploy than a change in Israeli policy.
The Jordan Valley annexation covers nearly a third of the occupied West Bank. By encompassing the entire eastern border of the west bank, Israel has encircled what remains of the Palestinian west bank like a Bantustan under apartheid South Africa. The Jordan River is the main source of water in the region, which is an agricultural breadbasket. Israeli control of the water and the best agricultural lands is another means of dominating the Palestinian people.
Netanyahu’s announcement was condemned by the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, and many other of the world’s nations. While the United States was silent, Netanyahu said in his announcement that the US peace plan to be unveiled after the Israeli election will provide for Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley. If true, it would be consistent with Trump’s approval of Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights in Syria right before the last Israeli election in April.
The United States could have used Netanyahu’s announcement as an occasion to change its policy toward Israel. But that won’t happen as long as “Israel, right or wrong” is the policy of the Democrats and Republicans in control the federal government.
What the US does matters. Israel has received more U.S. foreign assistance since World War II than any other nation, a total of $142.3 billion, mostly in the form of military assistance. Israel received economic assistance from 1971 to 2007 from the US, but the aid is now entirely military. Under the terms of a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding on military aid signed toward the end of the Obama administration in 2016, the US pledged $38 billion in military aid from FY 2019 to FY 2028, up from $30 billion in the previous 10-year agreement.
What the US should do is adopt of policy of escalating Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) to pressure Israel to stop the continuing annexation of the West Bank, end the blockade of Gaza, and respect Palestinian human rights and equality under the law. The first step should be a comprehensive military embargo against Israel, as called for by the Palestinian BDS National Committee.
BDS is nonviolent pressure on Israel to respect Palestinian rights and to enter into negotiations to settle the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It is time for the US to end support for Israeli apartheid, support Palestinian human rights, and apply nonviolent BDS pressure on Israel to respect human rights and negotiate with the Palestinians for a just resolution of the conflict.