Israeli Annexation Explained: What Is Netanyahu Planning for the West Bank and What Does It Mean

What exactly does “annexation” mean?

In general, the term “annexation,” or “applying sovereignty,” is a declaration that territories defined as occupied under international law become an integral part of the territory of the state annexing it – especially in terms of the law, jurisdiction and administration applicable to them. This replaces the military rule (“belligerent occupation,” to give it its official title) that applies under international law to occupied territories.

This usually refers to a unilateral step taken by the occupying power, not a step reached through negotiation and peace agreements with the occupied party. For example, this is how the State of Israel annexed the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem – through unilateral moves accompanied by government decisions and Knesset legislation.

The vast majority of the international community never recognized these moves, until the current U.S. administration headed by President Donald Trump changed American policy on the issue and recognized Israeli sovereignty in both the Golan Heights and Jerusalem. However, Trump stressed that this recognition did not preclude future negotiations over the fate of these territories.

Now Netanyahu wants to declare – with U.S. backing – Israeli sovereignty over all of the Jewish settlements established in the West Bank since 1967, including the Jordan Valley. He has stated his intention to do this several times over the past three election campaigns. Initially, he focused on annexing the Jordan Valley, but later began to promise annexation of all the settlements in the West Bank, in accordance with the Trump Mideast Plan released in late January.


What areas can be annexed under the Trump plan?

On paper, the Trump plan is based on the two-state solution and sketches out a distant future in which there will be a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. But in terms of the territory on which this Palestinian state would be established, it proposes the most limited and noncontiguous territory ever offered to the Palestinians by the international community. The administration’s guiding principle, according to Trump, is that “no Palestinians or Israelis will be uprooted from their homes.” As a result, the map accompanying the plan allows Israel to annex all the existing settlements, in addition to the areas surrounding them and access roads.