Israeli Annexation Plans VS. Facts on the Ground in Occupied Palestine in 2023
Israeli Annexation Plans VS. Facts on the Ground in Occupied Palestine in 2023
I. Overview: Main Israeli Annexation Plans Since 1967
The annexation of Palestine is far from being an exclusive far-right-wing program within the Israeli political establishment. Beginning with the Nakba of 1948, every Israeli government has endorsed policies to maximize the percentage of land under its control while minimizing the percentage for Palestinians. The Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) starting in the early nineties did not represent an exception, as no Israeli government included the achievement of the two-state solution as part of its political program. Israeli mainstream parties are divided between those who promote a further annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory and those who would prefer to entertain the current status quo, which can be defined as de-facto annexation. The annexation of occupied Palestinian land and the dispossession of the Palestinian people is a matter of Zionist consensus.
The "Allon Plan," one of the most prominent annexation plans, was set following Israel's occupation in 1967 by members of the Israeli Labor Party. It aimed to redefine Israel's borders to include "Greater Jerusalem" and connect it to the Jordan Valley through a strip extending from west to east, annexing the Jordan Valley from Bisan to the Desert of Hebron (so-called "Judean Desert"). According to Allon, the Jordan River must stay on Israel's eastern border to “preserve the Jewish state and achieve security.”
The “Sharon Plan” in 1977 suggested a strategic establishment of Jewish settlements around Palestinian population centers (in the occupied West Bank) and along the Green Line. The plan aimed to divide the West Bank into two parts and separate Palestinians within the West Bank from each other and from Palestinian-Arab communities within Israel proper. Settlements would be built on the eastern and western borders of the occupied West Bank and around occupied Jerusalem. Under this plan, also known as the "Cantons Plan," densely populated Palestinian centers will be fragmented into isolated cantons separated by bypass roads, military checkpoints, and iron gates. According to the Sharon Plan, the West Bank would be annexed, except for small, densely populated Palestinian enclaves.
The "Drobles Plan" in 1978, presented under a Likud government, expressed the "Greater Israel" ideology. It aimed to permanently control the occupied Palestinian territory [the West Bank and Gaza Strip] and preserve the security of Jewish settlements. The plan emphasized that "State land and uncultivated land must be seized immediately in order to settle the areas between the concentration of minority population [i.e., the Palestinians in the West Bank] and around them, with the object of reducing to the minimum the possibility for the development of another Arab state in these regions.”
These plans were followed by others, such as Netanyahu's Plan. Upon his election in 1996, Netanyahu's government program focused on the belief that the Jewish people's right to the land of Israel is eternal and cannot be nullified. The government insisted that, in any political settlement, Jewish settlements would remain protected and secure.
In 2014, the Minister of Education at the time, Naftali Bennett, wrote an op-ed for The New York Times about his plan, “For Israel, Two-State Is No Solution,” repeating his opposition to Palestinian self-determination and his plan to annex 60% of the West Bank. In 2013, he declared: "The most important thing in the Land of Israel is to build, build, build [settlements]. It is important that there will be an Israeli presence everywhere. Our principal problem is still Israel's leaders' unwillingness to say in a simple manner that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel.” In 2017, Naftali Bennett said: “The time has come to apply sovereignty over this good land because it is our land, and there is no better time than now for doing so.” In 2018, He asserted: "I am determined to advance the issue of sovereignty [over settlements]. It is a plan six years in the making, and I really think that the rare constellation of a right-wing government in Israel, a favorable administration in DC, and an international situation that enables it, should allow us to proceed after 50 years."
In 2017, Gila Gamliel, Minister for Equality and Social Rights, presented the basis for a plan that assumingly could be accepted both by the international community and the Arab states. She opposed the idea of a Palestinian state, saying it's dangerous for the State of Israel for ideological and historical reasons related to the Jewish people's right to the land and security. Gamliel explained that the international community's demand for a Palestinian state is unacceptable. She explained that such a state cannot exist in “Judea and Samaria,” and an alternative must be sought. Her alternative plan was for Palestinian autonomy in “Judea and Samaria,” adding that the only option for a Palestinian state is Sinai. Gamliel said: “They can be outlying citizens of the state in Sinai or choose to move there. They [the Palestinians] will not have citizenship of Israel, but of the entity of Gaza and Sinai”.
On 28 January 2020, upon announcing the "Deal of the Century," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at the White House that "Israel has the right to declare the annexation of settlements and the Jordan Valley to Israeli sovereignty." A significant component of the coalition government program crafted by Netanyahu and Benny Gantz was the commitment to apply sovereignty over settlements and the Jordan Valley.
Smotrich's "Decisive Plan" of 2017 presents concrete options for "resolving the conflict" by erasing the national identity of the Palestinian people. These options can be interpreted as follows; (1) to turn the occupied West Bank into cantons, essentially applying an apartheid system. South Africa implemented this system to deprive the black population of having a say in their country’s self-determination; (2) the second option is forced displacement, calling for an ethnic cleansing operation of Palestinians in the West Bank, as was the case of Palestine’s refugees who were forcibly expelled during the Nakba in 1948 and the occupation in 1967; (3) and the last option, named "military victory," implies mass killings, meaning that anyone who rejects the previous two options will be killed. All of these options blatantly violate the rules of international law, which Smotrich replaced with the term "justice." He interprets this concept based on a biblical understanding of what is known as "Torah Justice," which affirms the connection of the Jewish people only to the “land of Israel.”
II. Six Years After the Introduction of Smotrich's "Decisive Plan"
Smotrich’s Plan forms the pillars of the current Israeli government's program. The program’s principle is that the “Land of Israel” is the national and historical homeland of the Jewish people, and the Jewish people alone have the exclusive right to self-determination throughout the “Land of Israel.” The practical significance of this principle, explicitly stated in articles 118-127 of the coalition agreement between Likud and the Jewish Home party, is that the government will work towards applying sovereignty over the occupied West Bank and the expansion of settlements on a large scale, considering it a supreme national value and a means of ensuring Jewish control over the land. This was emphasized by the government’s commitment to recognizing all illegal colonial installations (outposts) and imposing complete control over the Oslo-defined area C of the occupied West Bank.
Six years after the introduction of this Plan, Smotrich now assumes responsibility for the overall management of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine within a new Israeli governmental body called the “Settlements Administration.” In addition to supervising settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, this body is responsible for issuing permits for new settlements and regularizing the status of Israeli colonial installations (outposts). It also has the power to monitor Palestinian construction in the Oslo-defined Area C of the occupied West Bank, including issuing demolition orders for Palestinian homes.
The position of the Finance Minister allows Smotrich to play a decisive role in directing budgets to settlement development, thus helping to accelerate the pace of settlement to gain control of the occupied Palestinian land. Additionally, in June 2023, the Israeli government decided to transfer planning authority in the occupied West Bank exclusively to Smotrich, which will further accelerate settlement development without political or security considerations. Furthermore, with Religious Zionism now in control of the Israeli Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, they can direct significant numbers of immigrants to settle in the occupied West Bank's settlements, thereby bolstering the demographic presence of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.
As Israel continues to impose new illegal facts on the ground in occupied Palestine in 2023, the report shows how Smotrich’s “Decisive Plan” of 2017 is already being implemented, starting with phase one, which he called the “Interim Period, Victory through Settlements,” to create irreversible illegal facts on the ground to eliminate the “illusions” for an independent and free State of Palestine.
III. Facts on the Ground in Occupied Palestine: 1 January – 30 June 2023
A. Israeli Racist Laws and Policies
In the first half of 2023, and in line with the current government's program, Israel, the occupying Power, enacted a series of laws and policies against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA):
- This government is working to impose Jewish sovereignty over the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, which is why the first action taken by Itamar Ben Gvir, following the constitutional oath of the new Israeli government, was to storm the courtyards of the Compound under the supervision of the Israeli police. Israeli settlers continue to storm into the Compound daily.
- The Knesset approved the amendment of the "Disengagement Law" of 2005 to allow settlers to return to four evacuated settlements in the northern West Bank, including the settlement of “Homesh.” As a result, the Israeli occupation army's central command signed an order allowing settlers to enter the illegal colonial installation (outpost) of “Homesh” in preparation for rebuilding a new settlement there. Several other laws were approved, including amendments to the "Revocation of Citizenship or Residency Law" targeting Palestinian prisoners holding Israeli citizenship or permanent residency in occupied Jerusalem who receive funds from the PNA, as well as extending the emergency regulations for another five years giving Israel legal authority over its illegal settlers in the occupied West Bank.
- Early January 2023, the Israeli government formed a ministerial committee to deal with what it called "diplomatic terrorism of the Palestinian Authority" following the UN General Assembly vote to request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding Israel's occupation of Palestine. Consequently, Israel imposed several sanctions on the PNA, including continuing to confiscate Palestinian funds, preventing Palestinians from building in over 60% of the occupied West Bank, and taking further action against Palestinian human rights organizations that work against Israel's occupation.
- Smotrich, the Israeli Minister of Finance, deducted (139) million shekels from the Palestinians’ tax revenues and transferred them to (15) Israeli families who filed lawsuits against the PNA, and stated: “As long as the Palestinian Authority encourages terror and is an enemy, I have no interest for it to continue to exist.”
- During its meeting held in a tunnel under the Al-Buraq Wall on the anniversary of the so-called "Jerusalem Day,” the Israeli government approved a budget estimated at (41) million shekels for the benefit of Elad settler organization to support settlement construction in occupied Jerusalem and the Jewish presence in it.
- Shortly after several Palestinian homes were demolished in the Jabal Mukaber neighborhood of occupied Jerusalem, Ben Gvir, the Israeli Minister of National Security, announced the “Bring Back Order” campaign to speed up the demolitions of Palestinian homes throughout the city. The campaign targeted Palestinian buildings in occupied Jerusalem built without permits, which are impossible to obtain. On the other hand, Ben Gvir attempted to undermine Palestinian prisoners' rights by withdrawing some of the privileges they had achieved through their continuous struggle. He imposed restrictions on visits by Palestinian Arab Knesset members to Palestinian prisoners and issued orders to the Israeli police to use force if ceremonies were held after the release of the prisoner Maher Younes.
- The Israeli government continues to ignore the rising crime rates among the Palestinian citizens of Israel, resulting in increased killings and organized crime. Netanyahu’s proposal to involve the Israeli Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, essentially aims to reframe this criminal activity as a security concern, laying the groundwork for the "National Guard" militias under the command of Ben Gvir. These militias intend to carry out extremist actions against Palestinian citizens of Israel and facilitate the seizure of their land without proper legal oversight.
- Proposed by Ben Gvir, a draft bill for the execution of Palestinian prisoners was approved by the Israeli government. Ben Gvir also issued a directive banning Palestinian flags from being displayed in public spaces. To further break up and displace Palestinian families, the Knesset voted to extend the Citizenship Law, enacted in 2002, which prohibits Palestinians who marry Israeli nationals from obtaining residency status in Israel. Furthermore, the Israeli government discussed a proposal not to recognize the academic titles of Palestinian universities. It also advanced a bill banning funding for Palestinian schools in occupied Jerusalem that teach Palestinian curricula.
B. Israeli Settlement Activities in the Occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem
Up to 2023, Israel has illegally transferred more than 740,000 settlers into the occupied West Bank, including 235,000 settlers into occupied Jerusalem. Settlements are continuously expanding, and settlement construction has increased dramatically since the beginning of 2023. Today we have over 176 settlements and 186 outposts, including 86 agricultural and pastoral outposts.
The first half of 2023 marked a record number of settlement housing units in occupied Palestine. The Israeli government promoted 30,000 settlement housing units, including 14,044 housing units in the occupied West Bank, of which 9,805 were for deposit and 3,500 for validation. In occupied Jerusalem, 22 zoning plans were advanced, four for new settlements, with 16,060 settlement housing units in advanced stages.
Today, settlements built-up areas occupy approximately 2.8% of the West Bank area, including occupied Jerusalem. The "area of jurisdiction" of the settlements exceeds 9.3% of the West Bank. There is also a well-developed road network connecting settlements to one another and to Israel that takes up 2.3% of the occupied West Bank. Settlers exploit natural resources and use more than 2% of land for agriculture. Additionally, 20% of the West Bank is declared closed military areas, including firing zones. Another significant fact is that Israel declared more than 20% of the West Bank as “State Land.” Today, 9.4% of the West Bank is isolated between the Annexation Wall and the 1967 border. Consequently, over 60% of the West Bank is under complete Israeli control. This leaves three million Palestinians living in 165 separate geographic areas in the Oslo-defined areas "A and B," amounting to less than 40% of the West Bank.
C. Other Israeli Violations Against Occupied Palestine
The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) have intensified their attacks against the Palestinian people by implementing the far-right government's program. As a result of the Israeli military incursions, including on Nablus and Jenin, many Palestinian civilians have been killed and injured, homes and properties destroyed, residents displaced, lands and resources confiscated, Palestinian cities and villages raided, holy sites assaulted, and Palestinians have been detained in mass numbers. After Smotrich's shocking pronouncement that the town of Huwara should be wiped out, Israeli settler terrorist attacks against innocent Palestinian civilians were intensified in an organized manner, including against the towns and villages of Beita, Al-Lubban Ash-Sharqiya, Huwara, Turmus’aya, and Um- Safa. This has been accompanied by a noticeable increase in Israeli official inciting statements against the Palestinian people, including threats of killing, expulsion, punishment, demolition of homes, and deprivation of their fundamental national and human rights.
The following summarizes key Israeli violations against Palestine and the Palestinians during the first six months of 2023:
- Shooting Attacks: the IOF carried out 2,103 shooting attacks in various Palestinian governorates, with 1,427 occurring in the occupied West Bank and 676 in the Gaza Strip.
- Palestinians Killed & Injured: Israel killed 180 Palestinians, including 31 children. At least 1,165 civilians were injured and transferred to public and governmental hospitals, while about 4,500 civilians were wounded and received treatment in the field.
- Military Raids: the IOF conducted 3,953 Military raids and established 2,138 sudden military checkpoints at the entrances to Palestinian villages, towns, and refugee camps. The civilian property was attacked 237 times during these operations, resulting in 183 confiscation cases.
- Withholding the Bodies of Palestinian Martyrs: Israel continues to withhold the remains of 130 Palestinian martyrs, including 12 children, ten prisoners, and one woman. Furthermore, the Cemeteries of Numbers still hold the remains of 256 other Palestinian martyrs. In the first half of 2023, Israel withheld the remains of 40 Palestinian martyrs from the occupied West Bank and released 25 remains, six of which were withheld in recent years.
- Demolition of Palestinian Homes: The occupation authorities demolished 424 structures, including 116 homes, throughout the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem. The demolitions included 52 donor-funded structures, displacing 129 families comprising 666 individuals, including 317 children. Moreover, some 3,622 families comprising 20,336 individuals, including 9,405 children, were affected. In Jerusalem alone, 126 structures were demolished, including 48 homes displacing 63 families comprising 314 individuals, including 158 children. The Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission (CWRC) report indicated that the occupation authorities issued 822 demolition notices in the occupied West Bank, primarily targeting the governorates of Hebron with 221 notices and Bethlehem with 170 notices.
- Israeli Settlers' Terrorism against Palestinian civilians, their properties, and religious sites continued unabated under the new Israeli government, which provides full protection and support for settler’s crimes. During the first half of the year, Israeli settlers were involved in 878 attack incidents against Palestinians, their properties, and Muslim and Christian holy sites, which resulted in the killing of 12 Palestinians. These attacks included driving into citizens, throwing stones at their homes and vehicles, assaulting and directly shooting at citizens, storming the outskirts of villages and towns, damaging their properties, leveling lands, and destroying/uprooting olive trees. According to a report by the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission (CWRC) on Israeli violations, settlers committed 140 attacks, primarily targeting olive trees destroying/uprooting 8,340 trees in the governorates of Hebron, Ramallah, and Nablus.
D. Latest Developments Regarding Palestine's Political Prisoners
At the end of June 2023, about 5,000 Palestinian prisoners were incarcerated in 23 different prisons, detention centers, and investigation facilities: 32 women, 17 journalists, and 160 children and minors. Recent statistics show that the IOF detained 3,866 Palestinians during the first half of 2023, including 568 children and 72 women, mainly in Jerusalem, where 1,800 Palestinians were arrested. Furthermore, there are currently 1,132 administrative detainees, including 18 children and three women.
- Administrative Detention: the Israeli occupation authorities issued 1,608 administrative detention orders against Palestinians (813 new orders and 795 extension orders), compared with 862 orders for the first half of 2022. With 1,001 administrative orders issued, April had the highest rate.
- Hunger Strike: around 10 Palestinian detainees went on hunger strike against their administrative detention; they suspended their strike after receiving some promises from the Israeli Prisons Authority to look into their demands to decide on the period of their arrest. Among the most prominent cases is detainee Khader Adnan (45), from Arraba town in Jenin, who died on 2 May in "Ramle" Clinic prison after 86 days of an open hunger strike against his administrative detention.
- Solitary Confinement: currently, 35 prisoners are in solitary confinement, some with severe health and psychological problems. Two prominent examples of solitary confinement are Ahmad Manasra (21 years old), who has been in isolation since October 2021 despite a critical psychological and health condition, and Mohammad Khalil, who has been in isolation for over 15 years.
- Medical Negligence: over 700 Palestinian prisoners suffer from a variety of diseases, including around 200 chronic illnesses, and at least 24 suffer from cancers and tumors, including Walid Daqqa, Asef Al-Rifa'i, Ali Al-Hroub, and Mousa Safwan, who face challenging medical conditions. The crime of Medical negligence led to the martyrdom of detainee Ahmad Abu Ali (28), a resident of Yatta, near Hebron, who died on 10 February in the Israeli "Soroka" Hospital.
All Israeli annexation plans aim to fragment the occupied West Bank into isolated cantons and eradicate Palestinian presence to prevent the creation of a sovereign, independent, and contiguous State of Palestine. Smotrich's Plan is not separate nor distinct but rather distills the essence of the core Zionist project of forcibly displacing and transferring the indigenous Palestinian population to be replaced with Jewish settlers: a colonial-settler enterprise by definition.
It's way past time for the international community to only reiterate its clear position and endorsement of the two-state solution. Drawing upon numerous UN resolutions, including 242, 338, 478, and 2334, the international community has a legal responsibility to translate those resolutions into action plans toward ending Israel's 56-year-long colonial-settler occupation and holding it as an occupying Power accountable for the violations and crimes it continues to commit against the land and people of Palestine.
An immediate first step is to recognize Palestine and support its application for full United Nations membership. To demonstrate a concrete commitment to international law and fundamental human rights, the international community also has the responsibility to support Palestinian international efforts unequivocally and to implement international law and human rights, including by banning Israeli settlement products and services, imposing sanctions on colonial-settlement activities, and divesting from any enterprises involved in the denial of the long overdue inalienable rights of the people of Palestine.
International inaction only perpetuates and consolidates apartheid and the illegal colonial settler occupation. Consenting to such crimes and oppression threatens Palestine and the region and undermines international law and the most basic principles of our world, including equality, human rights, and justice for all. The perpetuation of discrimination and double standards only deepens the existing divides and hinders any potential for a peaceful and inclusive resolution to any current or future conflict. Therefore, international efforts should always be focused on upholding and respecting international law and legitimacy based upon respect for the rights and dignity of all people.
There can be no end to apartheid in occupied Palestine without a concerted and unwavering international effort.
 Abdel Sattar Sherida, The Palestinian Jordan Valley in the Threshold of Leakage, The Arab East Center for Civilizational and Strategic Studies, August 2010, pg. 3. Available on “Miftah” Website.
 Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission (CWRC)
 Peace Now
 Ir Amim
 Main Source: NAD - unless otherwise indicated.
 Palestinian Ministry of Health
 National Campaign for the Recovery of Martyrs' Bodies
 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)