July 1 came and went, and the plan for Israeli annexation is still not clear. It might happen soon or it might not happen at all. Well, at least not for the time being. The reemergence of the coronavirus has changed the government’s priorities and the public was never all that interested in annexation to begin with. They might have supported it on principle but they were less than enthusiastic about it.
Here is some more information on annexation and some new data.
Public Opinion 1
Two weeks ago, I explained why all Israeli public opinion polls on annexation are problematic:
The real problem is not with surveys but reality. No one can pose a good question and get a clear answer when the actual situation is so vague. You can ask a question like: “Are you in favor of the annexation of Ma’aleh Adumim” and receive a meaningful answer. But you can’t ask, “Are you in favor of annexation somewhere, under certain conditions, sometime,” and receive a meaningful answer.
Public Opinion 2
I recently received another batch of data gathered by the aChord Center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from an annexation study. It attempts to present the level of support for annexation on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 being no support and 6 being strong support. It presents its own methodological problems, because it is not exactly clear if those marking, for example, 2, intend to state very weak support for annexation, or less than strong opposition to annexation. I am not sure I agree with the way the researchers interpreted the results (they considered 1-3 as opposition and 4-6 as support). Nevertheless, the outcome is interesting.
The rank from 1-6 for Jewish Israelis (almost all Arab Israelis oppose annexation):
The authors of the study believe that these numbers show a majority who oppose annexation (63% among Jews, 69% among Jews and Arabs combined). I think this is an overstatement but agree that it shows a lack of enthusiasm for annexation. If there is support, it is weak support, except for a small share of the public. Note how few people marked their support at 6).
The right wing, as calculated in this study, is 48% of the Jewish population. But even among right-wingers, annexation does not garner great enthusiasm. Less than 1 in 5 mark their support at 6.
And what about Likud voters? If I were the prime minister I’d be disappointed by this response. 5 and 6 combined is just slightly above a third of Likud voters.
Support by age group. What is shown here is that as Israelis age, their strong opposition to annexation (1+2) grows. Strong support for annexation (5+6) is not as age-related as strong opposition.
I assume — and am waiting on data to back this up — that the more Israel must return to dealing with COVID-19, he less support for annexation should be expected.
For / Against Annexation
In three recent episodes of Rosner’s Domain Podcast on annexation:
Historian Yoav Gelber described in detail the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as a background to the debate about annexation.
General Mike Herzog analyzed the situation from a policy maker’s perspective.
In this article, I explained why and under what terms I support annexation.
Having been convinced of the feasibility and desirability of annexation, two questions remain: where and when? Let’s begin with geography… Restraint is key to ensure annexation does not risk the character of the Jewish state. Israel must not annex the areas where millions of Palestinians live.
Timing also is important. The Israeli government argues that there is now an opportunity that should not be missed… I see no need for such haste. The West Bank is not going away and neither is Israel or its control of the territory. The settlements keep growing. Israel can annex territory now, or in six months, or in five years, or in three decades.
Here, I explained that if Israel annexes territory it is still not the end of the world (or the prospect for future peace):
The opponents of annexation argue that it is an irreversible move that makes negotiations impossible. They are half right. Annexation will anger the Palestinians and make them feel outmaneuvered and ignored. They will be in a weaker position and even more skeptical about Israel’s willingness to make compromises and to sanction sovereignty of any sort for Palestinians.
Then again, they are only half right. Such a result is not an inherent component of annexation. It is an emotional response to annexation — a Palestinian choice rather than a necessity.
Annexation in the Media 1
Hirsh Goodman’s July 3 article in The Atlantic gained a lot of attention. Goodman left apartheid South Africa to settle in Israel, and makes the case against annexation as a move toward apartheid. But the most important sentence in his article is this:
If Israel annexes part of the West Bank in early July and denies the Palestinians who come with it equal rights, I will confront one of the deepest dilemmas I have had to face since 1965, when I migrated to Israel from apartheid South Africa.
What if Israel annexes these parts and lets the Palestinians who live there become Israeli citizens? That’s a possibility and renders Hirsch’s argument irrelevant.
Annexation in the Media 2
Shibley Telhami is a master of writing survey questions in a way that ensures the response he wants (usually one critical of Israel). Here is the way he framed the question about the Trump plan in a survey that is supposed to tell us what Americans think of annexation:
The Trump plan envisions Palestinian control over about 70% of the West Bank and Gaza, which were occupied in the 1967 War, in addition to some territorial exchange. According to the plan, the Palestinian territories will be fragmented but connected through passages and Palestinians would have no control over territorial water, air, security, borders, and no right for alliances with other countries. In your opinion, what would you call an entity with those characteristics?
Instead of explaining why this wording is so problematic, here is the same question proposed differently:
The Trump plan envisions Palestinian control over about 70% of the West Bank and Gaza in addition to a large territory connected to Gaza in the Negev desert. According to the plan, the Palestinians will have a flag, their own currency, an anthem and a democratic government elected by Palestinians that controls the entire area. The territory will be demilitarized and arrangements will be made to prevent terrorism and ensure peace for both the Palestinians and Israel. In your opinion, what would you call an entity with those characteristics?
Got the idea?