Half of Israelis support annexation, most predict violence if it goes ahead

Hundreds of Palestinians protest Israeli plan in Nablus

Palestinian rioters clash with Israeli forces at a demonstration along the Gaza border near Gaza City, September 6, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)
Palestinian rioters clash with Israeli forces at a demonstration along the Gaza border near Gaza City, September 6, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

Most Israelis think their government’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank will spark a Palestinian uprising but around half favor going ahead anyway, a poll showed Wednesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to take steps toward annexation as soon as July 1, despite widespread international condemnation.

The move forms part of a broader peace plan published by the United States, although Washington has not publicly backed Netanyahu’s timetable.

Fifty percent of Israelis support annexation, half of them only with US support, according to a new poll published by the Israel Democracy Institute.

A Palestinian confronts IDF soldiers during a demonstration against Israeli settlements in the northern West Bank village of al-Sawiya on May 15, 2020, as Palestinians mark Nakba Day, or the ‘catastrophe’ of the displacement of Palestinians in the war during Israel’s founding. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

Nearly 31% oppose annexation, while the remainder were undecided.

Despite the majority voicing support for Netanyahu’s proposal, implementing his plan would very likely lead to an uprising, according to 58% of Israelis surveyed.

The most recent Palestinian uprising, known as the Second Intifada, erupted in the early 2000s and included waves of suicide bombings and other terror attacks that killed more than 1,000 Israelis.

On Monday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the army to speed up “military preparedness ahead of political steps on the agenda in the Palestinian arena.”

The latest poll, which surveyed 771 adults in late May, followed warnings by neighbor Jordan and other countries against annexation.

The United Nations on Sunday said the move would breach international law and “most likely trigger conflict and instability” in the Palestinian territories.

Annexation and the overall US peace deal have been firmly rejected by Palestinian officials, who cut diplomatic ties with Washington in 2017 after President Donald Trump recognized the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters rallied against annexation in Nablus, in the northern West Bank, carrying Palestinian flags.

“It’s the start of an active movement on the ground to defy the decision by Israel to annex, a decision that undermines the Palestinian national project,” said protester Khaled Mansour.

For Jihad Ramadan, the Nablus secretary of Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel aims to “kill the Palestinian dream” with its annexation plans.

“But it’s an illusion to think that they can prevent the creation of a Palestinian state,” he said.

Palestinians burn pictures of US President Donald Trump, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against Trump’s peace plan, in the West Bank city of Nablus on May 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Abbas has on numerous occasions threatened to cut all security ties with Israel if annexation goes ahead, while trying to rally the international community to the Palestinian cause.

According to analysts, ending such cooperation could threaten relative calm in the West Bank, home to 2.7 million Palestinians and 450,000 Israelis.

The latter live in settlements that are viewed by many as illegal under international law; in November, the US position took the position that the settlements are not, per se, inconsistent with international law.

Experts say the Israeli government has a narrow window of opportunity to move ahead with annexation, before US presidential elections in November that could see its ally Trump voted out of office.

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