October 19, 2020
From: Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Matan Vilnai
To: Cabinet and Knesset Members
Re:  Halting the dangerous process of creeping annexation

Last week the government and the Knesset approved normalization agreements with the UAE.  An additional agreement was signed on Sunday (18) with the Kingdom of Bahrain.  These developments hold out the promise of enhanced security, stability and prosperity for Israel and its relations with the Gulf States.  Above all, however, they offer the possibility to change direction in our relationship with the Palestinians.

While negotiating these agreements, Israel undertook to freeze plans for unilateral annexation in the West Bank. Annexation is a dangerous step that could accelerate the decline of the Palestinian Authority, something the security establishment has warned against and which I wrote to you about last week.  Indeed, annexation could lead to the collapse of the PA, requiring us to deploy the IDF in populated areas of the territories, and obliging us to manage (and finance) the lives of millions of their Palestinian residents.

Even before the ink had dried on the Knesset’s decision, we witnessed an uptick in the process of creeping annexation, as evidenced by laws that would facilitate annexation in practice though not in name, as well as in a decision to proceed with extensive housing construction in the territories. These steps have a single goal in mind:  to rule out the possibility of separation from the Palestinians.

These measures are bound to further complicate any possibility of separating from the Palestinians,  thereby bringing us closer to a single state between the Jordan and the sea, a state that is nether Jewish nor democratic in the spirit of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.  Their immediate danger, however, is to the recently signed agreements and to hopes for normalization with additional countries.  Annexation violates Israel’s explicit commitments to refrain from annexation (at least for now).  This is not the way to begin a new era of normalization in the Middle East.  Nations that value their credibility cannot behave in this manner.

In light of recent strategic developments as well as expected progress with additional countries in the region, Israel’s leaders must live up to their commitments without equivocating.  They must exploit the full potential of these agreements, enlisting other countries in the region in the effort to change course in our relations with the Palestinians and proceed towards separation en route to an eventual two-state solution.

On behalf of the hundreds of members of Commanders for Israel’s Security, I call upon you to halt the dangerous process of creeping annexation and exploit the potential of regional agreements to strengthen the governance of the Palestinian Authority, while promoting a secure and careful process of separation from the Palestinians.

Maj. Gen (Ret.) Matan Vilnai
Commanders for Israel’s Security