Don't annex the West Bank

Annexation of the territory that was taken from Jordan in the 1967 war (apart from East Jerusalem and the Old City, both of which Israel declared to be legally under its jurisdiction) has long been an option. Yet for decades it wasn’t seriously considered. Two reasons made it unappealing: the expected outrage of the international community that has never accepted Israel as the legitimate ruler of the West Bank, and the demographic implications that annexation would have on Israel’s “Jewish and democratic” character. The territory is largely inhabited by Palestinians. If Israel bestowed citizenship on all of them, it would dramatically erode Israel’s Jewish majority. Why then has annexation suddenly become politically kosher?

The obvious reason is the failure of the peace process. For 25 years, Israelis and Palestinians have tried to negotiate a mutually agreed separation — the so called two-state solution. They failed not for lack of professionalism, but rather because they couldn’t agree on the terms for separation. A growing number of Israeli leaders are reaching the conclusion that this old idea is dead. Since they think the status quo is unsustainable, they are searching for new ideas.

The two available new ideas force Israel to forgo core building blocks of the old peace process: to sacrifice the element of “agreement,” or to sacrifice the element of “separation,” or both.