Israel is on the brink of disaster — Trump just made things worse

Palestinian demonstrators from Birzeit University during clashes with Israeli forces in Ramallah, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, in the occupied West Bank, Mar 20, 2019. (photo: Abbas Momani / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images)
Israeli voters may be about to rush headlong into quicksand that they don’t even realize exists.

By Michael Koplow | The New York Times | Mar 22, 2019

[Annexing the West Bank] would cost billions of dollars annually, would create virtually indefensible borders . . . provide ammunition to the anti-Israeli Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and destroy Israel’s foreign relations with a host of countries. . . .
Israel would then have to grant citizenship to the 2.5 million Palestinians living there, giving itself the choice of no longer functioning as a Jewish state, or destroy its democracy by denying the Palestinians political equality. If anything can truly threaten Israel, the region’s pre-eminent military and economic powerhouse, it is that.

On April 9, Israelis will go to the polls to choose their next government. The campaign has largely been a referendum on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should remain Israel’s leader in light of his expected indictment in three corruption cases for bribery and breach of trust. With those scandals front and center, policy disagreements have largely been ignored, leaving Israeli voters at risk of unwittingly bringing an avoidable disaster on themselves by annexing territory in the West Bank.

President Trump just raised that risk.

How so? On Twitter on Thursday, he wrote that “it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” It is the latest, and most important, signal from Washington that Mr. Trump is ready to acknowledge Israeli control of the Golan Heights.

But those signals are also being read by the Israeli right wing as an encouragement to pursue annexation of territory in the West Bank — a far more dangerous step that would present Israel with an unparalleled existential threat to its Jewish and democratic character.

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