The West Bank annexation plan is on despite Biden’s rise to power in the Oval Office. In fact, Israel is going to polls in less than a fortnight and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might as well want to announce the big move in the run-up to the national polls. Netanyahu has three sides to handle- the Biden administration, the Arabs and Israel’s Muslim neighbours, including an overzealous Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Netanyahu can be relieved about the Biden administration and the Arabs. Netanyahu knows how to handle US President Joe Biden and his shenanigans. The Arabs too are not going to pose any major problem, especially after signing peace deals dubbed “Abraham Accords” with the Jewish nation. The only mischief, if any, could be created by Turkey’s President wannabe Khalifa, Erdoğan but Netanyahu might have managed to get over this concern also.
We know that Netanyahu will be able to handle Biden, because the Israeli Prime Minister has managed to do just that ever since the 78-year-old Democrat came to power.
We have seen how Biden was rather desperate to get the Iran nuclear deal, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA resuscitated. Yet, he failed only because Netanyahu issued a stringent warning about the consequences which may ensue if Biden tried to revive the JCPOA and strengthen Israel’s biggest enemy- Iran.
Once, the JCPOA fizzles out completely, Netanyahu will come out looking like a big winner. As such, Netanyahu seems to have understood how Biden works and how he needs to be handled. So, Netanyahu can go ahead with the West Bank annexation plans despite Biden’s love for the Palestinian agenda.
As for the Arabs, it became clear right from the word go that by signing the “Abraham Accords”, Israel only undertook to put the West Bank annexation plans on hold. Neither the Arabs asked Israel to give up the annexation plans, nor did Israel concede anything on this front.
So, Israel would hold its West Bank annexation plans temporarily and move towards its execution following the brief suspension. We can safely assume this to be the subtext of the Abraham Accords.
Now, the Arabs are unlikely to renege, because of the many gifts that they received from the United States for making peace with the Jewish nation. Otherwise also, Arabs don’t want to aggressively support the Palestinian cause, rather they find more comfort in joining hands with Israel and drafting a combined front against Iran.
So, we come down to Israel’s Muslim neighbours, led prominently by Turkey. Till now, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seemed like a dangerous Ottoman-revivalist. Israel too had started considering Ankara a major security threat. The Netanyahu government would have also understood that if the West Bank annexation plan is put into effect, then Turkey could be the one playing spoilsport.
So, Netanyahu is trying to work his way around Turkey. There is a newfound bonhomie between Israel and Turkey. Against the run of play, Turkey’s President has extended an olive branch to Israel. He even said, “Our heart desires that we can move our relations with them to a better point.” Israel too is responding positively.
Erdoğan’s change of heart is driven by his domestic and international crises. He has many issues to handle, which includes isolation from Europe and many Arab states, an unfriendly administration in the USA and Turkey’s troubled economy. So, Turkey is desperate and even more importantly, Israel has a fair measure of how desperate the Turkish President is.
Therefore, Netanyahu finds it worthwhile to kill the growing hostility in Israel-Turkey ties. Behind the curtains, a quid pro quo might be happening.
Erdoğan knows that rekindling ties with Israel is the only solution to the position that Ankara finds itself in. The Jewish nation can help Turkey rebuild its ties with Europe, the US and the Arab world. But nothing comes for free in diplomacy. So, Israel will help out Turkey but Turkey will have to keep quiet, if and when, Netanyahu decides to up the ante and effectuate the West Bank annexation plans.
So, with this give-and-take equation with Ankara, Israel’s Prime Minister has come very close to the West Bank annexation plans. Don’t be surprised, if he actually makes the ambitious move in the run-up to the March 23 polls.