Palestinians said arrested after backing annexation in Israeli TV report

Journalist behind hidden camera footage of West Bank residents saying they want to become Israeli claims at least 6 of them detained by PA security; Ramallah denies it

Members of the Palestinian Authority security forces patrolling in the village of Beitunia in the central West Bank on April 6, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)
Illustrative: Members of the Palestinian Authority security forces patrolling in the village of Beitunia in the central West Bank on April 6, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)

AFP — The Palestinian Authority has arrested several people who said they would favor Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, corroborating sources said, though Ramallah denies holding them.

In an Israeli television report aired in early June, several Palestinians in the West Bank are heard expressing the hope of becoming Israelis if annexation under a US-Israeli plan moves forward.

The comments by those interviewed directly contradict the Palestinian Authority’s total opposition to any West Bank annexation moves, a view shared by an overwhelming majority of the Palestinian public, according to surveys.

The Palestinians featured in the program were captured by hidden camera and their identities were concealed in the broadcast through blurred faces and distorted voices.

“I want an Israeli identity card,” one Palestinian is heard saying. Another stated that he didn’t see “Israelis as enemies — their government is the enemy.” And a third said he “chose Israel” and wasn’t afraid to speak out publicly.

Undated photo of Channel 13 Arab affairs reporter Tzvi Yehezkeli. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

The prominent Israeli journalist who made the report, Chanel 13’s Tzvi Yehezkeli, said at least six people who spoke out in favor of annexation were subsequently arrested by the PA’s security services.

“I was surprised to see that even though I’ve blurred the faces of all the people I filmed and distorted their voices, the Authority has reached and arrested (some) of them, it’s just amazing,” he told AFP.

One Palestinian contacted by AFP said his relative, who had criticized the PA in the report, had been held for several weeks by Palestinian police and was due to face a court soon.

The individual said he was also in favor of annexation and, despite “fear” of being arrested, added he remained hopeful “that Israel will give us citizenship.”

Contacted by AFP, several PA security sources rejected the claims.

“We have not arrested anyone in connection with this case,” Palestinian interior ministry spokesman Ghassan Nimr told AFP, while Palestinian police spokesman Louay Arzeikat also denied anyone was being held over the report.

‘Fear’ of arrest

Israel had set July 1 as the date from which it could decide on the implementation of a key part of the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan proposed by US President Donald Trump and which is backed by right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It proposes Israel’s annexation of its Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, a territory controlled since the 1967 Six Day War by the Jewish state.

No announcement has so far been made on annexation — a move that the UN says would violate international law — but Netanyahu has said talks with Washington are ongoing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points at a map of the Jordan Valley as he gives a statement, promising to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

He has also insisted that any annexation moves will not include granting citizenship to Palestinians, hinting at the possibility of creating PA-controlled enclaves within the Jordan Valley, where Palestinian towns are most at risk of falling under full Israeli control.

Palestinian leaders have warned annexation would shatter any hopes for enduring peace and a two-state solution and risk sparking a new uprising.

Some 88 percent of Palestinians oppose the “Trump plan,” according to a poll last month by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, and 52% even said they would support a return to armed struggle.

There have been waves of demonstrations against annexation and the Trump plan across the West Bank in recent weeks.

Palestinians clash with Israeli soldiers during a protest against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank, in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near the West Bank city of Nablus on July 3, 2020. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Nonetheless, Yehezkeli, who has been a correspondent in the Palestinian territories for nearly 25 years, told AFP he realized there are also many Palestinians who do not share the outright opposition of their leaders.

Some interviewees had told him that “we don’t care about annexation” and that “the Palestinian Authority has failed” and was “corrupt,” he said, adding that he regretted not airing all those comments on television.

He insisted he had been told of their subsequent arrests by their families and stressed that he felt “responsible.”

‘Lost hope’

Some Palestinian commentators say such statements reflect the deep dejection of people who have spent decades under occupation, denied the peace and prosperity they had long hoped for.

A Palestinian man rides a donkey on a road in the Jordan Valley, in the West Bank on June 14, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Why did those people say that?” asked Shawan Jabarin of the Palestinian rights organization Al-Haq. “They said that because they have lost hope in peace, in a two-state solution.”

“We can’t take this question out of context. The context is: there is injustice, occupation, oppression, and the Palestinian Authority doesn’t act for the Palestinian national interests… They failed to bring peace.”

“The question is: is Israel ready to accept them as full citizens, equal citizens?”

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