Chill! Experts predict little sovereignty backlash


Don’t be overly concerned over threats that violence will erupt if Israel annexes parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley, a top intelligence and security expert said this week. Meanwhile, others were voicing fears of fallout, including frayed relations with international and regional allies and the potential of Palestinian and even larger Arab violence.

In a recent conversation arranged by the Jerusalem Press Club, Yossi Kuperwasser, a senior intelligence and security expert, and a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs noted that an extension of Israeli sovereignty “would not cause mass protest and chaos.”

“The Arab world, including Jordan, will make some noise but they will not do much beyond that because they will not risk their relationship with Israel or this U.S. administration,” he said. “They also know that Israel is not going anywhere.”

Reports indicate that Jordan’s King Abdullah is refusing to take calls from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel’s sovereignty plans. Last month, Abdullah also warned that such plans could lead to “massive conflict” and has purportedly threatened to cancel the peace treaty between the two nations.

Kuperwasser suggested that any negative reaction in the Arab world would be more of a formality than a reflection of the reality on the ground. His opinion, and that of many on the right, differs greatly from those on the left.

In an interview on Israel’s Army Radio last week, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk said annexation was “driving the Zionist project off a cliff.”

“Netanyahu is supported by a president who won’t be here soon,” Indyk said, predicting that if the extension of sovereignty does go through as planned, “the damage to Israel’s reputation and its relationship with Arab countries will be irreplaceable.”

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, during a recent visit to Israel, expressed his opposition to the plan. “Together with the European Union, we are of the opinion that annexation would not be compatible with international law and that is why we continue to stand by a negotiated, consensual two-state solution.”

The European Union is weighing measures against Israel if it does proceed with a sovereignty extension; however, any sanctions would require an agreement of all 27 members. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose country has formed a close alliance with Israel in recent years, especially over energy projects in the Eastern Mediterranean, is slated to visit the Jewish state with a large delegation to discuss annexation and other regional developments.

Kuperwasser believes that statements by Indyk and others are overblown, especially considering that the peace process initiated during the 1990s by President Bill Clinton that continued through the Bush and Obama administrations has yielded little results on the peace front.

“This is crazy,” said Kuperwasser. “What has been done until now by the cottage ‘peace industry’ has led nowhere.”

He added that while some believe that Israel extending sovereignty would be “a negative step” regarding the possibility of making peace, the opposite is true.

“I have never heard a more ridiculous argument,” he said. “The U.S. peace plan offers an opportunity to move forward. There is no peace process, and the reason is the Palestinians themselves. The Palestinian narrative rejects the idea that the Jewish people have any historical rights to this land.”

They reject that Israel has legitimate security concerns that must be met, including an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley.

“The Palestinians, of course, will not accept it and if we wait for the Palestinians to accept it, we will wait forever,” he added.

In an interview with Palestine TV, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said if Israel were to announce sovereignty, then the Palestinians would consider declaring an independent state in all of Judea and Samaria with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, told JNS the Palestinians “may well declare a state within 1967 lines and get recognition from several Muslim and European states, despite the fact that they do not control all of the area they claim.”

However, he said, while such a declaration would “escalate tensions,” the Palestinians “are weak and dependent upon Israel,” and would not be able to sustain their own state without Israel’s assistance.

A declaration of independence by the Palestinians will not change facts on the ground, according to Inbar. “The threat of the declaration is part of their diplomatic campaign to dissuade the US and Israel from implementing the Trump peace plan, which they do not like.”

Part of that reason, according to Kuperwasser, is because it ends their years of rejectionism and removes their ability to veto movement on the peace process.

For the first time, in contrast to what Indyk and others with his opinion on the matter have been saying, “the Palestinians are being told the truth,” said Kuperwasser. The Trump administration is telling the Palestinians that if they continue to say no, they will pay a price.

Trump’s plan “is the first peace proposal that is based on the understanding that the Palestinian narrative must change,” he said. “If there is enough pressure from the international community and Arab countries, then we will have a chance to achieve peace.”

While there may be minor rumblings from some Arab states, experts on the right agree that there will be no major backlash and Trump’s peace plan will be recognized as diverging from the tried-and-failed approaches to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Israel is not doing anything that will harm the prospects for peace,” said Kuperwasser. “Rather, Israel is doing something that will give peace a chance.”