The UN General Assembly voted Friday to ask the International Court of Justice in The Hague for an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In other words, the United Nations is asking the court to help it decide whether it is still possible to define Israel’s control in the territories as “occupation” – which is temporary – or whether it is in fact annexation.
The process is expected to take between one and two years. What a waste of time, money, effort and, especially, the needless show. After 56 years of occupation, the answer is self-evident, and it could have been drawn up within a day or two. So here is a spoiler for the play in The Hague: The Israeli occupation has long since stopped being temporary. The annexation is at its height, all you have to do is go and see it with your own eyes. But it’s best to call in the ministers of the new government and ask them in person.
Let’s direct the judges, for example, to the first sentence of the new government’s policy guidelines: “The Jewish people have an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop settlement in all parts of the Land of Israel – in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria.” And here is Article 118 of the coalition agreement between Likud and the Religious Zionism party: “The people of Israel have a natural right to the Land of Israel. In light of the belief in the aforementioned right, the prime minister shall lead the formulation and promotion of a policy by which sovereignty will be applied in Judea and Samaria.” I’ll translate for anyone not fluent in doublespeak: “Ribonut,” or “sovereignty,” is Hebrew for “annexation.”
True, a cynical disclaimer was also inserted: The official annexation will be promoted while “taking into consideration the timing and Israel’s national and international interests.” The “interests,” dear judges, are you, or rather the need to deceive you, but the intention is clear and no one hides it. The head of Religious Zionism, Bezalel Smotrich, a senior cabinet minister, explicitly declared in his inauguration speech that he intends to promote “regularization and strengthening of our grip on the regions of the homeland.” Yes, you got it – “regularization” is also annexation. Hebrew has many words for annexation of the territories – and not a single one of them expresses a temporary aspiration.
Bezalel Smotrich in the Knesset in December.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
But when it comes to proof of a process of annexation, the small details are just as important as the big declarations, since that is how the settlement enterprise grew over the years. Notice the additional plans that are documented in the new agreements: legalizing illegal outposts and connecting them to electricity; building roads and expanding services and infrastructure for settlements; nationalizing and appropriating land, in part in the guise of serving humanitarian, environmental and archaeological needs; fighting similar kinds of Palestinian construction and even returning to previously evacuated settlements.
Above all, follow the government’s plan to transfer authority over the Civil Administration and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories from the military to Smotrich. This means the end of the era of pretending to be a “military” occupation. These plans do not even have to be fully realized to show how Israel views its rule of the territories: as not temporary.
So it’s a waste of your time, honorable judges. Invite the new cabinet members to The Hague; they’ll explain it to you themselves. Then spend your time and your per diems on a good meal at a nice restaurant.