Jun. 12, 2019
- The Difference between “Retaining” and “Annexing” Territory – Herb Keinon
In his interview on Saturday with the New York Times, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was quoted as saying, “Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.” Friedman never uttered the word “annex,” though the Times online headline read: “U.S. Ambassador Says Israel Has Right to Annex Parts of West Bank.”
According to Alan Baker – former legal adviser at the Israel Foreign Ministry who today serves as director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs – there is a difference between retaining territories and annexing territories. “You can retain territory without annexing it,” Baker said. “That is what we did in the [Oslo Accords] interim agreement. We retained Area C [in the West Bank where Israeli has full civilian and security control], but we haven’t annexed it, and we have not expanded Israeli law there.”
Retaining territory “can be done in agreement between the parties, or even in a unilateral way, until there is some positive outcome to negotiations over the permanent status of the territories. Israel has every right to retain whatever territories it feels it needs for its security.”
Between retaining territory and annexing it, there is another category: extending the country’s law, jurisdiction and administration over territory. Israel took this path in 1981 when it enacted the Golan Heights Law. That law did not formally annex the strategic plateau, but it did extend Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration there.
Baker said that Prime Minister Menachem Begin instructed Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Yehuda Blum to write to the UN secretary-general saying that this move was being done “without prejudice to negotiations with Syria when Syria will decide they want to come negotiate on the location of a mutual bilateral border.” Extending Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration over the Golan Heights in 1981 did not mean applying sovereignty or annexing it. (Jerusalem Post)