Palestinian negotiators are expressing extreme concern today after reports emerged that the Israeli cabinet plans to adopt the bulk of the Levy Report from this Summer, in particular legalizing a large number of illegal outposts in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu had originally tried to bury the Levy Report as too diplomatically volatile after it announced that Israel had occupied the West Bank so long it wasn’t really an occupation anymore, and urged the government to just legalize all settlements and unilaterally declare that the West Bank is part of Israel.
Netanyahu was forced to revive the report because of demands from pro-settler groups seen key in the early election, fearing they would back more hawkish parties. Now they intend to push through the practical matters of the report, the legalization of settlements, and simply ignore the annexation parts for now.
But is this a distinction without a difference? The PLO seems to think so, and is blasting the plan as “de facto annexation,” cautioning it formalizes the West Bank into a system of apartheid and would only inflame tensions. Israeli Transport Minister Yisrael Katz defended the move, saying that affirmed the right to continue to expand West Bank settlements, while insisting Israel would never “annex the Palestinian population” living there.