Photo Credit: Courtesy of the White House
President Donald Trump with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020.

A US official told Reshet Bet radio on Thursday that if Israel is interested in a more limited annexation and reaches a decision on this matter, “We will be prepared to consider it.”

The same US official added that Israel would have to submit the relevant maps and then negotiate with the US government, which is likely to ask “why is it currently in the Israeli interest?” or “Why are you currently interested in annexing area X?”

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That statement in itself constitutes a critical diversion from President Trump’s original laissez faire approach, when said that he was not a party to his proposed peace agreement, the Israelis and Palestinians should decide for themselves. Whoever thought there was a difference between Trump and John Kerry in that regard deluded himself. A peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority continues to be the shiny object for which all US presidents yearn. Every one of them wants his own picture on the White House lawn like Bill Clinton with Rabin and Arafat, or Jimmy Carter with Begin and Sadat. Such a picture and the Nobel Peace Prize are capable of erasing years of political failures of this or any other White House.

So don’t forget: in the tale of sovereignty, Israel and the Arabs have always been nothing more than so much gun fodder.

The US official stressed that so far no final map has been drawn up, adding that the administration “is waiting for the Israelis to formulate their position, ultimately it is your decision.” And of course, whoever takes the first step will receive a beautiful bridge connecting downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn.

In the context of the impending sovereignty, has anyone considered the massive flight of PA Arabs into Area C, in the hope of attaining the coveted “blue card,” the Israeli ID card? According to Reshet B, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories has been concerned about it, and is preparing to hold a population census among Arabs living in the parts of Area C where Israeli sovereignty is expected to be imposed.

The purpose of such a census would be to estimate the Arab population now, in order to prevent Palestinians from moving into the annexed territories. The census, if executed, would involve physical entry into Arab villages, complete with knocking on every door and checking out how many live in each unit. Should be fun.

It is yet to be determined what would be the status of the Arabs living in the annexed territories. They would likely enjoy the same privileges as the Arabs of eastern Jerusalem who were incorporated into the State of Israel when that part of the capital was annexed in 1980.

Incidentally, AIPAC has held briefings with US lawmakers, promising to continue supporting those who would be critical of the annexation, as long as they don’t demand that Israel be punished.

Several Democratic lawmakers, most notably Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have threatened to divert money from the US aid package to Israel. Of course, they can’t, because of the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018, which determines that the $38 billion in military aid over 10 years spelled out under President Barack Obama’s 2016 Memorandum of Understanding would be funded through a special mechanism that would be separate from the annual budget. The law ensures that US aid would not be cut once the aid memorandum came into effect starting in 2019, ensuring that the funds would not be influenced by the budget negotiations between Congress and the President. It also means that presidents would not be able to suspend US aid as a means of pressuring Israel.

Them’s the rules.

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