Israel must think before it annexes

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Opinion: Our leaders keep promoting the idea of annexing parts of the West Bank, but have neglected to discuss the far-reaching ramifications of such a move for our society and economy that would let the country make an informed decision

David Brodt –  https://www.ynetnews.com

The looming annexation of West Bank lands has dramatic implications on Israel and its economy, and as a major historical event, we must examine its implications and raise the economic and social aspects to public awareness.

Only when the public is aware of all of these aspects, can it judge for itself – yes or no to annexation.

Had there been an in-depth discussion of the move’s ramifications, the public’s answers would have probably been completely different. But it seems like the current leadership insists on avoiding these aspects so to avoid the public’s real answer and so we won’t be able to say that the writing was on the wall.

This behavior is outrageous and irresponsible and could become a national catastrophe.

These day, the leadership is talking about a partial annexation but hides the fact that such a move is bound to lead to a full annexation eventually.

This may only happen many years from now, but we have an obligation for the coming generations.

Supporters of the annexation idea in its current form are dazzled by their vision for “Greater Israel” and ignore their desire for territory, but not the locals.

If they could, they would have made the locals emigrate, but that would not be possible, so they would have to give the Palestinians residency status without voting rights – much like the residents of East Jerusalem. This has a heavy economic price.

However, the partial annexation process is not motivated by these considerations, but rather the intra-Israeli pressure of supporters of the idea of Greater Israel, which relies on the hard core of settlers as well as pressure from other groups – those who gave up on the diplomatic path because the Palestinians “are not partners for peace.”

In addition, it is relying Palestinians who have lost hope in a diplomatic solution due to their difficult situation and are willing to settle for one state in which they will receive the same services as Israelis.

Partial annexation means one state for two peoples – a state that will not guarantee peace between the peoples but an internal struggle that could escalate to a civil war.

The international community will exert pressure and impose sanctions on Israel if it fails to grant full equality to its Palestinian population – much like it did to South Africa.

The international community will change the paradigm from a two-state solution to a one-state solution and equality for all.

One state means an additional 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians, whose GDP per capita is less than $5,000. Annexation will lower the average GDP of the new united state to $25,000 per capita – which may sink even lower due to coronavirus.

This state will be completely different – the Palestinian minority will grow to around 40%, leading to a bi-national country.

In addition, annexation will see Israel fall to the bottom of the list of developed countries because of the many resources it will have to provide to all residents of the bi-national state – welfare, education, healthcare, and more.

Today, the cost of these services is estimated at more than 12 percent of the state budget, which is more than NIS 50 billion a year – and these are the most conservative estimates.

This will force the state to raise taxes and cut some services for those who are already receiving them. This will hurt the general public, but mostly the weak.

This will also damage the Israeli economy’s credit rating. It’s not going to happen overnight, but gradually over the years. But the trajectory is clear – there is going to be a fundamental change in the character of the state and its economy.

Partial annexation will create a new dynamic. Israel will not only lose its Jewish character but also its economic and social character.

Even today, Israel provides services to its citizens that are inferior to the average of OECD countries, and adding more residents who belong to the lowest income levels of the population will only exacerbate the situation and increase inequality, which would overlap a national and religious divide.

When examining the implications of the move as a major historical event, the correct question to ask the residents of Israel would be: “Are you willing to pay the economic, personal and familial price involved in long-term annexation – a change in the socioeconomic character of the state, increased taxes and worse civil services – so we can pay for the same services for the annexed Palestinian population?”

The answer would be a resounding “no.”

So think before you act.

David Brodt is a former director-general of Israel’s Finance Ministry

 

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