DEPENDING on where individuals stand on the fraught and complex issue of Israel applying sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, by now people are either rushing to condemn the Israeli government or saying it’s about time.
Others are relieved or lamenting a lack of action.
Indeed, anything the Israeli government does is often so polarising that facts, context and the realities on the ground often get lost in the debate.
For as with everything else in Israeli-Palestinian affairs and across the Middle East, things are not so black and white.
The lands in question were earmarked for a Jewish state in the Balfour Declaration and this was entrenched into international law at the San Remo conference. In 1947 the Arabs rejected the partition plan that would have given the Palestinians a state there.
Then, after Israel won the territory back from Jordanian control in 1967, resolution 242 called for the exchange of territories in exchange for peace, something that has not been forthcoming – despite several generous Israeli offers – without a peace partner on the Palestinian side.
So one can argue that the territory is disputed; however, claims that Israel’s presence is illegal under international law – including the ill-conceived but non-binding resolution 2334, and the term “annexation” itself – are not based on sound legal principles.
The reality is the intransigent Palestinian Authority has continually refused to negotiate while it pursues its own unilateral path to isolate Israel in international bodies, incites against the Jewish State and financially rewards terrorism.
All considered, one could make the argument that Israel has the right, after 72 years, to begin to formalise its borders. But even if it has the right, is now the right time? There is much at stake for something that does not necessarily appear to be an urgent priority.
Warming ties with the moderate Arab states could cool overnight. Relations with Egypt and Jordan could further sour. Hezbollah and Hamas will be emboldened. Israel’s allies in Europe and elsewhere might distance themselves as well.
Are these risks worth it?
We are not in the business of telling Israel how she should act, but as proud Zionists with Israel’s best concerns at heart, we hope she has thoroughly weighed up all the pros and cons.