Opposition bill would forbid West Bank annexation

With support of Labor, Meretz and Shas, the left mounts a response to a right-wing proposal to make the Jordan Valley Israeli

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

MK Hilik Bar in the Knesset, March 6, 2013. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
MK Hilik Bar in the Knesset, March 6, 2013. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

A new bill being advanced by the left would forbid the government from annexing any part of the West Bank not currently under Israeli sovereignty, except in the framework of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

The bill, proposed by MK Hilik Bar (Labor), with the unanimous support of Labor MKs and some from Shas and Meretz, comes as a response to a flurry of recent right-wing measures seeking to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank.

The right-wing bills have included at least two proposals seeking to annex the Jordan Valley, and others that could make it more difficult to pass any future peace agreement through the Israeli political system, such as a proposed semi-constitutional Basic Law that would grant constitutional status to a law requiring a national referendum in the case of a territorial swap.

Many of the right-wing bills have drawn the ire of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who suggested they undermined Israel’s negotiating position by violating the agreed-upon rules of the negotiations with the Palestinians, including no unilateral moves by either side during the current nine-month round of negotiations.

The new left-wing bill, a revived version of a similar bill proposed by Bar last July and written together with the One Voice organization, seeks to reverse the demands of the bills proposed by the right.

“The final status of the territory [defined in the bill as the West Bank sans Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip — HRG] will be determined only in the framework of an agreement that arranges ‘two states for two peoples’ between the State of Israel and the formal representatives of the Palestinian Authority… The State of Israel shall not apply its sovereignty unilaterally to lands in the territory, except in such an agreement,” the bill reads.

The measure is slated to go Sunday before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, the cabinet committee that grants government support to a bill. The committee’s support usually translates into a nearly automatic Knesset majority.

Last week, the same cabinet committee voted nine to three in favor of a bill proposed by MK Miri Regev (Likud) to annex the Jordan Valley.

The new bill forbidding such annexation is unlikely to pass either in the cabinet or in the Knesset plenum due to coalition considerations, but will give the coalition parties “an opportunity” to show “whether they are for or against a two-state solution,” Bar said.

The idea that “a separation between Israel and the Palestinians is needed … has become a broad national consensus,” the explanatory portion of the bill argues.

Whether or not the bill wins cabinet approval on Sunday, Bar vowed to bring it to the Knesset floor for a preliminary vote by the following Wednesday.

“Unilateral annexation of the territories by Israel will, as everyone knows, constitute a death blow to the negotiations and to our efforts to achieve peace in the framework of two states, and this bill is the clear response of the Knesset majority that desires two states to the right’s insane penchant for unilateral annexation,” Bar said in a statement.

The bill won the support this week of the entire Labor faction in the Knesset in a unanimous vote during the party’s faction meeting on Monday, and may represent the party’s new, peace-focused political message in the wake of the election of new party leader MK Isaac Herzog.

That critique of the right was the key message delivered by the bill’s main sponsor on Wednesday.

“Today’s right has unfortunately transformed in recent years from the nationalist camp to the binationalist camp,” said Bar, “and in its actions and the measures it is pushing, is trying to seal the fate of Israel as the single state of two peoples, effectively eliminating Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state. This will signify the destruction of the Zionist dream.”

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