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In the context of recent political fervour in Israeli politics pushing for the annexation of the West Bank, this timely paper explores the real and present process of both de facto and de jure annexation that has long been underway in the West Bank. Utilizing the case study of the Etzion Colonial Bloc, which encircles Bethlehem to the north, west, south and south-east, this paper ties the historical roots of Zionism and Zionist plans with respect to the land of Mandatory Palestine to the present day Israeli actions on the ground. In this regard, it is a paper that must be understood in the broader context of a process that has been ongoing since before the establishment of the state of Israel, and is being replicated throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.
This particular research has been created over the last three years, under a continuous learning process and through the efforts of multiple research teams. Entailing extensive literature and legal review, first hand data collected from 1000 Palestinian residents affected by the Etzion colonial bloc as well as one-to-one interviews, this paper seeks to fill an alarming gap in the understanding of the reality under which Palestinian communities are living and surviving.
To that end, this paper illustrates in detail how annexation is achieved through a two-pronged process, enabled and facilitated under the guise of occupation – a state of affairs technically permissible under international law. On the one hand, Israel deploys a wide-range of colonial practices in order to colonize the land, allowing it to acquire the maximum amount of land with maximum Israeli-Jews. While, on the other, it simultaneously pursues systematic policies of forcible population transfer in order to take the land with the minimum number of Palestinians.
The paper then explores the way in which this culminates in the annexation of the land, which, as with Israel’s strategies of colonization and forcible transfer, consists of a range of mechanisms crafted and deployed as and when required. The research demonstrates that processes of both de facto and de jure annexation are in fact well advanced. However, this annexation is being incrementally pursued in ways that are designed to create a façade of legality that circumvents and obfuscates both international and Israeli legal hurdles, in order to advance the ultimate strategy of one Israeli-Jewish state in the land of Mandatory Palestine. Moreover, it is a process that is necessarily underpinned by the establishment of an apartheid state, in order to dominate and subjugate the remaining Palestinian population as the reality of Palestinian facts on the ground continue to stand as a clear and inarguable counterpoint to Israeli ambitions.
Ultimately, with Israel’s effective control over the occupied territory, this paper draws a picture of a situation in which the urgency for third party states to act and fulfil their obligations has never been more demanding. So the question thus remains, of how long and intensely Israel will continue its annexation attempts and apartheid rule of a steadfast and perseverant Palestinian people, before duty bearers intervene to fulfill their obligations to uphold the rights of the Palestinian people in accordance with international law.