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Knesset calls for permanent annexation on 50th anniversary of the occupation

June 7, 2017 11:13 P.M. (Updated: June 12, 2017 10:46 A.M.)
Israel's Knesset. (AFP/Eric Feferberg, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A number of far-right Israeli parliamentarians called for the permanent annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory during a Knesset plenary session on Tuesday to mark the 50-year anniversary of the Six-Day War.

Since June 5, Palestinians have commemorated the Naksa, meaning “setback,” marking the Israeli invasion and occupation of the West Bank -- including East Jerusalem -- Gaza, Sinai, and the Golan Heights that began on June 5, 1967 during the Six-Day War, displacing some 300,000 Palestinians, as well as thousands of Syrians, from their homes.

Since 1967, Israel has stood accused of committing major violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory, including excessive and deadly use of violence; forced displacement; the blockade of the Gaza Strip; unjustified restrictions on movement; and the expansion of illegal settlements.

“Fifty years on, and there are those who say the (1967) victory only complicated things for us; that the ‘occupation’ corrupts our society,” Knesset speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein said, before calling Israelis residing in illegal settlements across the occupied Palestinian territory “pioneers of our time.”

“We will continue to support the settlers, even when it is ‘complicated,’” Edelstein added.

Meanwhile, MK Moti Yogev from the extreme right-wing Jewish Home party called for the establishment of a Jewish state in all of historic Palestine.

“The people of Israel know that the land of Israel belongs to them, and the Israeli settlement in the land will continue forever,” Yogev said. “Its defensible eastern border will always be the Jordan River, and Jerusalem will not be divided.”

“It is time to seek international recognition. It is time to stop being afraid. It is time to apply the law to Judea and Samaria as an inseparable part of the state of Israel,” MK Yoav Ben Tzur of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party said, using the Israeli term for the occupied West Bank.

Israel and its supporters have long claimed that Israel’s insistence on being recognized as a Jewish state was not different from other countries’ national identities, without elaborating on how the enactment of policies to maintain and privilege a Jewish national religious identity was compatible with equal rights for all people under Israeli civilian and military rule regardless of religion.

Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) lawmaker Oded Forer meanwhile called on foreign states -- none of which have officially recognized the legitimacy of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem -- to move their embassies to Jerusalem, a move that would de facto acknowledge Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital.

The far-right MKs’ statements came on the same day as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to do "everything to protect the settlement enterprise" in “all parts of Judea and Samaria,” prompting the Palestinian Authority (PA) to say that Israel was “destroy(ing) any chance of resuming the peace process.”

However, other parliamentarians expressed concerns over the impact of half a century of occupation on Israel, and its potential to jeopardize a future two-state solution.

“Since the Six-Day War, we have yet to decide what to do with the victory,” Merav Michaeli, from the opposition Zionist Camp party, said. “The (Israeli army) has been held in the West Bank since the Six-Day War, initially to preserve the achievements of the war, but today it is kept there to protect Jewish settlements in a place that does not really belong to us. The conflict has become the thing that defines us. We do not recognize ourselves without it.”

“It is in our interest -- from a position of strength -- to lend them (Palestinians) a hand and help them build themselves up, because this will help us build ourselves up. Otherwise, the victory in the Six-Day War will dismantle us from within,” Michaeli warned.

MK Dov Khenin of the Arab Joint List, a coalition of political parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, denounced the Knesset’s erasure of Palestinians in its celebration of the 50 years of occupation.

“Today I saw many pictures in the corridors (of the Knesset), but the big picture was missing. Where are all the millions of people who live under occupation? Where are the pictures of the checkpoints and the (Palestinian) farmers who lost their fields?” Khenin asked.

“The only option is peace. The path to peace is simple, on a basic level. What we ask for ourselves -- independence and justice -- is what the other nation deserves as well,” Khenin added.

“There are two options -- we can either learn to get along in our surroundings or not. If we do not, there will be more wars and more people will be killed, until there will be a war which we will not win and the state of Israel will cease to exist.”

While the PA members of the international community have rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, Israeli leaders have instead shifted further to the right, with more than 50 percent of the ministers in the current Israeli government publicly stating their opposition to a Palestinian state.

A growing number of pro-Palestinian activists have also criticized a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- establishing a Palestinian state along 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital -- as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace given the existing political context, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.

While the PA and the international community do not recognize the legality of the occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank since 1967, many Palestinians consider that all historic Palestine has been occupied since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
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