West Bank Annexation – A Window of Opportunity or an Apocalyptic Nightmare

June 28, 2020

As of July 1, 2020 the Prime Minister will be able to bring the agreement reached with the United States regarding the application of sovereignty for discussion by the cabinet and the government and for the approval of the government and/or the Knesset.” (Article 29 of the national unity government)

 

Application of Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and parts of the West Bank is a historic opportunity. According the national unity government deal PM Netanyahu can bring his proposal regarding the application of sovereignty to government as of 1st July 2020. It is a difficult strategic dilemma: Annex now during coming months or not, how much to annex, how big are the risks in West Bank, in Israeli borders and internationally, does ”window of opportunity” close after US presidential elections on November 2020 in case Mr Trump’s rival Joe Biden – who opposes annexation – is elected and reverses US policy?

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz instructed  already 1st June the IDF chief of staff, Lieut. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, to speed up the military’s preparations for developments on the Palestinian front, including the country’s planned annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria. Gantz is believed to have asked Kochavi to present the IDF’s plans for a possible escalation of violence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The IDF has been preparing for annexation-related scenarios for the last six months.

Two-States according Deal of Century (Trump Peace Plan)

Annexation?

Annexation is the term applied when a state unilaterally proclaims its sovereignty over other territory. and many international institutions look that it is forbidden by international law. Many international organizations and states have view that extension of Israeli law and jurisdiction to West Bank is against international law. Some experts, especially in Israel, claim opposite as there is no another state in West Bank or making claims for that territory.  A recent example of annexation was Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, but this approach of international law – whatever it is –  is also flexible as seen e.g. in case of Kosovo earlier.  However in this article I use ”annexation” as a general, not legal, term. 

In terms of territory, Judea and Samaria (West Bank) have not been parts of any sovereign state since the fall of the Ottoman Empire over 100 years ago. Israel, which has controlled those territories since 1967, possesses the only strong claim to sovereignty—but it has never actually claimed that sovereignty. After Ottoman rule West Bank was part of British mandate agreed to serve as Jewish homeland in San Remo 1920. After UN partition plan 1947 – which was accepted by Jewish organizations but not by local Arab representatives, Jordania attacked and occupied West Bank until Israel took it back in Six-Days-War 1967. Jordan and Israel made peace agreement in 1994 where the international boundary between Israel and Jordan follows the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers, the Dead Sea, the Emek Ha’Arava/Wadi Araba, and the Gulf of Aqaba. The section of the line that separated Jordan from the West Bank was stipulated as “without prejudice to the status of [that] territory.”

One of the most significant differences between annexation and current situation is in settlement construction. Currently, building and zoning in the West Bank requires the approval of Israel’s defence minister and prime minister, and can take months or years. Following annexation, it would become a local matter and consequently easier for Israel to build there.

Starting point, exact boundaries are at planning stage or negotiated with Palestinians.

The area

In public debate there has been views that Israel is annexing, or should annex, the entire West Bank, the sc One-State-Solution as its outcome. However areas earmarked for annexation (the precise contours of which are being mapped by Israel and the US) may comprise about 30% of the West Bank according to Trump peace plan (Peace to Prosperity ).

Under the Trump peace plan, which Israel has accepted, Israel can and should declare its sovereignty, and extend its civilian law, over the portions of Judea and Samaria it’s capable of governing effectively and efficiently without military support. So the specific areas that Israel is considering annexing are already primarily Jewish, and already under Israeli control, they are located in area C agreed with Palestinians in Oslo Accords in 1993.

One scenario is a plan for “gradual” Israeli annexation in the West Bank, Mr Netanyahu might initially act to annex just the settlements, which could amount to only 3%, and the remaining 27% later on once the boundaries are agreed with Washington or Palestine Authority.

Gershon Hacohen /BESA gives another aspect which is Israel’s growing residential and infrastructure density. He sees annexation as ”a golden opportunity to develop the West Bank communities. This means that the application of sovereignty calls for the strategic governmental formulation of a new national master plan for the development of Israel’s eastern rampart. The master plan, according Hacohen, could include e.g:

  • To consolidate Jerusalem as a metropolitan city while developing circumferential transportation and municipal infrastructures
  • To fully utilize the open corridor from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea for the saturation construction of hundreds of thousands of housing units.
  • turning the Jordan Valley, up to the eastern ridge lines in Samaria, into a tract of continuous settlement for the absorption of two to three million Israelis.

All these trends exist in Area C, and they offer a guiding framework for organizing the infrastructures of the Palestinian entity in lands controlled by Israel.

One of the Israeli settlements in West Bank, Ma’ale Adumim. Photo credit AFP

 

Different views

Our future doesn’t depend on what the Gentiles will say, but on what the Jews will do.” (David Ben-Gurion)

The declared intention for the implementation of sovereignty in certain parts of the West Bank is prompting vigorous debate in Israel. The matter of applying Israeli sovereignty to certain areas of the West Bank has been disputed both Israeli right-wing and left-wing camps.

Right-wing camp highlights the security risks and that Palestinian Authority (PA) would get half of the Area C – which is agreed to be under Israeli administration due Oslo accords – in addition to Area A and B, which are now full or partial under PA. Settlement leaders are not keen on annexation, either. They have launched a public campaign against the Trump plan. They say annexation would risk opening the door for a Palestinian state while ending any expansion of Israeli settlements in much of the West Bank. .

The left-wing camp, backed by many former army officers and public servants, sees more risks than and opportunity; so far, as the details and terms of annexation can make it more attractive. Leftist view has been that annexation would be counterproductive if not completely fatal for the prospect of an eventual two-state solution. Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz stipulating that they would seek to advance the Trump plan “while pursuing the security and strategic interests of the State of Israel, including the need to maintain regional stability, preserve peace agreements and pursue future peace agreements”.

Some Israeli commentators anticipate swift and terrible ramifications of a decision to annex parts of the West Bank. Their darkest visions include e.g.

  • an intensification of violence between Israel and the Palestinians,
  • a severing of relations by Jordan and Egypt, which might even go so far as to nullify their peace treaties with Israel,
  • the Gulf States that have been tacitly cooperating with Israel on security and intelligence fronts will end their cooperation,
  • the EU will condemn Israel in the strongest possible terms,
  • scores of countries will recognize the Palestinian state,
  • the BDS movement will significantly intensify,
  • antisemitism will reach new heights.

The problem with annexation of Jordan valley is the matter of control of the West Bank’s main traffic corridors. From a security standpoint, IDF should remain in charge of security on the ground. It questionable if the completion of bypass arteries, bridges and tunnels are enough.

As Area C already is in Israel’s control, the annexation could happen with a vote in Israel’s parliament but in practice with almost no changes on the ground. However, if Israel formally declares land as part of its state, it would make it even more difficult to give it up in any future agreement. The main problem would be, that reversal would require in Knesset the support of a large majority (66%) of Israeli MPs and as I understand, that this something which is very unlikely.

My rhetorical question: Does anyone think (except some Palestinian leaders publicly) that this “settlement” would be given to State of Palestine in any possible Peace Deal?  City of Ariel (founded 1978) located between -67 line and security barrier in West Bank:

 

Global response to annexation?

We can disagree with Israel on political issues and still cooperate in other areas, such as the coronavirus and technological matters,” (FM Anwar Gargash, UAE)

Global response to annexation is negative. Sure the Palestinians are against and calling for international pressure. The UN has warned that annexation would most likely trigger conflict and instability in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, the US is likely to block any attempts to pass resolutions at the UN Security Council condemning Israel.

Jordan has said it would be forced to review its relations with Israel if annexation goes ahead. One reason for hardline statements might be that the US call for is naturalizing the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, which is considered by the regime as a severe threat to Jordan’s stability.

Egypt has traditional solidarity with the Palestinians and with their demand for an independent and sustainable state based on the 1967 borders. A Egyptian national interest is the desire for a renewal of negotiations on an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, which will contribute to regional stability and could – according to the Trump plan – lead to projects worth billions of dollars in Egypt’s own territory.

The Arab world has sharply criticised Israel’s plans. The EU – Israel’s biggest trading partner – says it will use diplomatic means to “discourage” Israel from carrying out its plans. Some member states have called for tougher action, including possible sanctions.

Probably annexation will negatively affect Israel’s relations with the Gulf states. their public opposition to the annexation will likely continue, but so will their quiet security cooperation with Israel, particularly in light of the common interest of curbing Iran’s regional and nuclear aspirations.

In my opinion the global response will be verbally hard against annexation, it will be condemned but as usual there will no meaningful countermeasures as outcome.

 

Palestinian Authority has opportunity to negotiate a better deal

Every Time Palestinians Say ‘No,’ They Lose” (Bret Stephens)

Palestinian Authority has opposed  annexation and Trump peace plan  even before it was published. Again the Palestinians seems to be the only nation that ever said “no” to an offer of independence with international support.

PA declared on May 2020 they’re no longer bound by the 1990s-era peace accords that govern Israeli-Palestinian relations, and have begun refusing to coordinate with Israel on matters of daily Palestinian life, from tax collection to policing to cancer treatments — arrangements they’ve found humiliating. The even didn’t took corona aid from UAE as the aid-cargo came via Ben Gurion airport. Ordinary Palestinians are paying the price for the disruptions in funds, policing and medical care. Palestinian authorities also refuse to coordinate with Israel to allow Palestinian patients to travel outside the impoverished Gaza Strip for life-saving treatments, according to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.

Palestinian officials are now refusing to accept any of the tax revenues Israel collects on their behalf, leaving tens of thousands of Palestinian civil servants unlikely to get full paychecks this month. The $145 million a month Israel transfers to the Palestinians is estimated to make up about 60% of the Palestinian Authority’s budget.

The Trump peace plan violates no agreement as such. It sets out an ostensible framework for peace between the Palestinians and Israel, including the establishment of a Palestinian state and the granting of considerable economic benefits for the Palestinian people. In my opinion exactly Palestinians have now window of opportunity to get a good deal and finally their own state. And exactly now in coming months when President Trump is in office and wants to make his ”Deal of Century”, winn the next elections and maybe get the Nobel peace prize. So Palestinians have now excellent cards in their hands to get best possible deal for them.

 

My view

The fundamental principle, recognised by Britain’s Peel Commission in 1937  and by the fledgling United Nations in 1947, that the only way to resolve the conflict is to partition the Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, guaranteeing national self-determination for both peoples who claim it as their own.

Comprehensive peace proposals were presented to Palestinian leadership three times in the past – once by the United Nations (1947) and twice by Israel (2000, 2008). All three times, Palestinian leadership rejected broad peace deals, while Israel said yes.

As White House finally published its ”Peace and Prosperity plan” (Deal ofCentury/DoC) , I commented  it as follows:

I agree with President Trump that his Vision is the most serious, realistic, and detailed plan ever presented, one that could make Israelis, Palestinians, and the region safer and more prosperous. In my opinion even at minimum it creates updated framework for possible Israeli-Palestinian negotiation as well possible one-sided Israeli actions if negotiations don’t start. DoC is just the first step and provides the basis for historic progress toward peace. Anyway the best aspect with DoC in my opinion is that it simply mirrors the reality on the ground as it exists today in the West Bank and not high-flown ideas and utopies.

In my opinion the DoC could be even better. From my point of view the map would be more clear if Israel would annex only some 200,000 Israelis who live in the 12 Jewish neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and the second group of some 300,000 Israelis who live in the so called ‘settlement blocs,’ located west of the security barrier which are usually very close to the Green Line. This kind of approach could be described as constructive unilateralism as this kind of annexation is not foreclosing the possibility of a future Palestinian State and sc Two-State-Solution. The rest 90,000 settlers – less than 20 per cent of the entire population of those living beyond the Green Line – who live beyond the route of the security barrier, could be, if so agreed after possible negotiation with PA, relocated inside barrier and future border.

David Ben-Gurion faced a similar dilemma in 1937 when accepting the Peel Commission’s partition plan, which offered the prospective Jewish State a small fraction of the territory of mandatory Palestine. “The Jewish state now being offered us… is not the Zionist goal, but it could serve as a decisive stage on the way to realizing the larger Zionism,”

A Palestinian counteroffer of direct talks with Israel might be the best and pragmatic approach to resolving the conflict of the century. In my opinion this would be a win-win outcome for Israel, Palestine and President Trump.

 

Palestine-Jordan confederation, Three-state option

Best solution in my opinion: Spatial separation with Jordanian and Sinai options

 

Sources:

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,606, June 15, 2020 ,

Trump peace plan ,

al-Jazeera ,

Council on Foreign Relations ,

Dr. Raphael G. Bouchnik-Chen/BESA in The Jordan Valley Annexation Dilemma: A Realistic Approach ,

INSS: A Strategic Framework for the Israeli-Palestinian Arena ,

Israel Defense ,

My related articles:

Gaza Options ,

Deal of Century finally released ,

Constructive Unilateralism (II) as Solution to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,

Herzog’s Plan: Security Barrier Around the Major Settlement Blocs of West Bank ,

Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi Indicted for War Crimes

June 25, 2020

Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi and nine other former militants were indicted for war crimes by the Office of the Special Prosecutor in the Hague. The prosecutors said the charges were laid in April before being publicly unveiled on 24th June 2020 according reports by Deutsche Welle as well also AFP, AP, Reuters…

They are “responsible for nearly 100 murders,” according to the prosecutors at the EU-backed Kosovo Specialist Chamber. The victims included Kosovar Albanians, Serb and Roma people, with political opponents also targeted, according to the officials. The group also faces charges of torture, persecution, and enforced disappearance. The officials described the indictment as “the result of a lengthy investigation” adding that the effort reflected the SPO’s “determination that it can prove all of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

KOSOVO2004The 52-year-old Thaçi is one of the most powerful and most experienced Kosovo politicians and like many other present-day Kosovo politicians, or better say clan leaders of organized crime, played a prominent role in the resistance movement that pitted ethnic Albanians against Serbs in what was then a Serbian province. One could note that less than a year ago, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj resigned after he was summoned by the same court on suspicion of war crimes.

DW’s correspondent from the Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, Milica Andric Rakic, described the announcement as “probably the single most shocking event since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence” in 2008. “Thaçi will use any last power lever at his disposal to stop the Court, like he tried to do in December 2015 with the attempt at abolishing the Law on the Specialist Chamber,” she said. She warned that the move might also spark protests by former militants that could escalate into “ethnic violence.”

Despite operating for years and summoning hundreds of witnesses, this is the first indictment ever issued by the Chamber’s prosecutor. The office also accused Thaci and another suspect, former parliamentary speaker Kadri Veseli, of trying to “obstruct and undermine” the tribunal’s work. “Thaci and Veseli are believed to have carried out a secret campaign to overturn the law creating the Court and otherwise obstruct the work of the Court in an attempt to ensure that they do not face justice,” the statement said according DeutscheWelle .

After Balkan wars Balkan war crimes were prosecuted before the now-defunct International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. The court has now been replaced by the Kosovo Specialist Chamber, an EU-backed body set up in 2015 and also based in The Hague. The Chamber is ruled by Kosovo law, but funded by the EU and staffed by international judges and prosecutors.

 

Background

In my earlier article Quadruple Helix – Capturing Kosovo I described how (Kosovo) Albanian organized crime organizations gained remarkable role in Europe. It is estimated that they are the chief perpetrator of drug and people smuggling, trafficking, organ sales etc. Past estimates suggested that ethnic Albanian traffickers controlled 70% or more of the heroin entering a number of key destination markets, and they have been described as a “threat to the EU” by the Council of Europe at least as recently as 2005. Kosovo is serving as a junction for heroin trafficking from Afghanistan to West Europe through famous Balkan route. Recently Columbian drug dealers are setting up cocaine supply bases in Albania and Balkans to penetrate into Europe. Already earlier ethnic Albanians organized the transportation of cocaine from the Netherlands and Belgium towards Italy.

Radical Islamists and OC groups had/have a common interest in Kosovo

Links between drug trafficking and the supply of arms to the KLA Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA aka UÇK) were established mid-90s during war in Bosnia. In West KLA was described as terrorist organization but when US selected them as their ally it transformed organization officially to “freedom” fighters. After bombing Serbia 1999 KLA leaders again changed their crime clans officially to political parties. This public image however can not hide the origins of money and power, old channels and connections are still in place in conservative tribe society.

Wahhabists, al-Qaeda etc arrived first to Bosnia to help Muslim brigades in their fight against Serbian army and Serb and Croatian civilians

Thaçi and other members of his inner circle were “commonly identified, and cited in secret intelligence reports” . For example the German secret state agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), describes Thaçi’s Drenica group “as the most dangerous of the KLA’s ‘criminal bosses’.” Trading on American protection to consolidate political power, thus maintaining control over key narcotics smuggling corridors, having succeeded in eliminating, or intimidating into silence, the majority of the potential and actual witnesses against them (both enemies and erstwhile allies), using violence, threats, blackmail, and protection rackets,” Thaçi’s Drenica Group have “exploit[ed] their position in order to accrue personal wealth totally out of proportion with their declared activities.” Indeed, multiple reports prepared by the U.S. DEA, FBI, the BND, Italy’s SISMI, Britain’s MI6 and the Greek EYP intelligence service have stated that Drenica Group members “are consistently named as ‘key players’ in intelligence reports on Kosovo’s mafia-like structures of organised crime.”

Kosovo – ruled by clans

 

Whitewashing: From international protectorate to (captured) state

After bombing Serbia 1999 KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) leaders changed their organized crime clans officially to political parties. This public image however can not hide the origins of money and power, old channels and connections are still in place in conservative tribe society. Last ten years now political leaders have whitewashed their drugs- and other OC-money by establishing façade-firms as well real enterprises, by success in donor funded investment projects and through privatisation process.

The insignificant economic base was easy to see when creation of the state of Kosovo was ongoing. Official statistics from year 2008 showed that export from Kosovo amounted about 200 million Euro while import increased to 2 billion Euro, which makes trade balance almost 1,800 million Euro minus. If export is covering some 10 percent of import so from where is money coming to this consumption. The estimate is that when export brings mentioned 71 million Euro the organised crime (mainly drug trafficking) brings 1 billion Euro, diaspora gives 500 million Euro and international community 200 million Euro.

Kosovo has a small domestic market and limited industrial production, and its imports remain still higher than exports. According to Kosovo Agency of Statistics, Kosovo’s trade deficit continued to widen in 2018 to EUR 2.97 billion, from EUR 2.45 billion a year earlier, with imports rising to EUR 3.34 billion, from EUR 3.05 billion, whereas exports fell to EUR 367 million, from EUR 596 million a year earlier. IMF estimates that the 2018 balance of payments (net trade in goods and services) to be USD -2.2 billion. According to the World Bank, Kosovo’s overall trade deficit, which includes trade in both goods and commercial services, stood at an estimated 29.1% of GDP in 2018. (Source: Societe Generale )

 

My view

I agree with those who claim that it is clear that Kosovo’s secession from Serbia, as well as its hasty recognition as an independent state, was a mistake.

The real power in Kosovo lays with 15 to 20 family clans who control “almost all substantial key social positions” and are closely linked to prominent political decision makers. German intelligence services (BND) have concluded for example that Prime Minister Thaçi is a key figure in a Kosovar-Albanian mafia network.

While I was working in Kosovo after bombings as EU expert for local administration it was clear how Kosovo Albanian ”freedom fighters” started to transform themselves to political leaders of this then international protectorate. International community – via UN/UNMIK, NATO/KFOR, EU/TAFKO/EAR and affiliates – which were administrating Kosovo, was well aware of the direct links between organized crime clans and political leaders (See Appendix below).

The original or better to say official aim of international community was to build “standards before status”, on 2005 the task was seen impossible so the slogan changed to “standards and status”. Even this was unrealistic so Feb. 2008 “European”standards were thrown away to garbage and “status without standards” precipitately accepted by the Western powers. For international community I don’t see any success story with this backward progress.

The reason why this whitewashing was supported by international community might be the need to sustain some kind of stability in Kosovo Albanian part of province. The second reason might be that US and EU could not admit that they selected wrong side already mid-90’s by blaming Serbs about all negative events in e-Yugoslavia. The third aspect might be some economical interests of Washington, Paris and Berlin related to West Balkans. The forth reason might be the opportunity to break Yugoslavia and increase Western influence in this region as Russia was then too weak to support their Serbian friends;   the Pentagon goal already in late 1998 was to take control of Kosovo in order to secure a military base to control the entire southeast European region down to the Middle East oil lands, Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo is now reality.

International community could not admit that it was fooled to support the separatist movements in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. This bias was clear during my work in field level, for example the aid and development programs were made to benefit Kosovo Albanian part more than match the needs of Kosovo Serbian part. This bias was clear for everyone and even admitted privately in higher levels but changing policy – decided in Washington and Bruxelles – was impossible to keep the old facade. Now after two decades the real roles of different players in ”operational theatre” are coming more clear for wider public and so far the the indictment of President Thaçi is good step to right direction 

The truth might be as Canadian Major General Lewis MacKenzie, former UN Protection Force commander in Bosnia, cited the admission in an April 2008  statement  to the Lord Byron Foundation:

This anti-Serb bias and sympathy for their “victims” was exploited by the Kosovo Liberation Army, (KLA), an internationally recognized terrorist organization at the time when it commenced killing Serbian security personnel in the late 90s. The KLA hired the same North American PR firms employed by the Bosnian government and successfully won the PR war in spite of the fact their organization initiated the armed conflict.

The current Prime Minister Hashim Thaci was the leader of the KLA. He has admitted that the KLA orchestrated the infamous Racak “massacre” dressing their KLA dead in civilian clothes, machine gunning them and dumping them in a ditch and claiming it was a Serbian slaughter of civilians. NATO bought into the ruse and on its 50th birthday looking for a role in the post cold war world the alliance became the KLA’s air force and bombed a sovereign nation from the safety of 10,000 ft.

 

Kosovo

 

More reading:

My articles: Kosovo: Two years of Pseudo-state , Balkan route-Business as usual and Captured Pseudo-State Kosovo .

About possible solutions e.g. my articles Dividing Kosovo – a pragmatic solution to frozen conflict and Cantonisation – a middle course for separatist movements

More about link between organized crime and Kosovo political leaders one can find e.g. from “leaked” German Intelligence report BND report 2005 .

The report, Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo”, prepared by Swiss prosecutor-turned-politician Dick Marty. Investigations conducted by the Swiss diplomat, Dick Marty on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have revealed the true picture of Kosovo’s prime minister Hashim Thaci. In his report to the PACE’s Commission, Thaci is presented as the leader of a criminal gang engaged in the smuggling of weapons, the distribution of illegal drugs throughout Europe and the selling of human organs for unlawful transplantation. The Swiss senator conducted a two-year inquiry into organised crime in Kosovo after the Council of Europe mandated him to investigate claims of organ harvesting by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) after the war with Serbia ended in 1999.

A good article by F. William Engdahl: Washington’s Bizarre Kosovo Strategy could Destroy NATO  .

 

 

Appendix:

Organized Crime in Kosovo, resume by NATO/KFOR