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On 28 January 2020, the Trump Administration published its peace plan for the Middle East. Among its more controversial proposals is a land swap between Israel and the Palestinians. This would require Israel to annex land currently occupied by settlements in the West Bank.

Some commentators and regional neighbours have argued that, if enacted, this would be the end of the peace process.

Israeli settlements on land designated by the UN as Palestinian territory have been a longstanding issue of contention in the region. Approximately 460,000 Israelis now live in 132 officially recognized “settlements” and in 121 unofficial “outposts” in the West Bank.[1]

Most of the international community and the UN consider the settlements to be illegal under international law. The Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying state from moving its own civilians into the territory it occupies. According to the International Court of Justice, the West Bank is considered occupied territory because it was not part of Israel before the Israeli army conquered it in 1967. 

Israel considers that the Geneva Convention is not applicable to the West Bank because it only refers to a state occupying another state’s land. Israel considers the West Bank “disputed territory,” not occupied territory.

Mr Netanyahu has said the plan is “not annexation“, although it involves applying Israeli sovereignty to the parts of the West Bank which contain Jewish settlements, as well as most of a swathe of land along the West Bank’s boundary with Jordan, known as the Jordan Valley.

The Israeli Government has not yet proceeded with the proposed annexation, but maintains that the plans are “still on the table”. Recent peace agreements—establishing full diplomatic relations—with the UAE and Bahrain, were reported to have halted those plans. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing a difficult political situation at home having fought three elections in as many years and is now locked into a power-sharing arrangement with the opposition.

Netanyahu is also facing charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases. 

Israel has recorded more than 180,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1,200 deaths. The Government is struggling to impose its second lockdown faced with mounting protests and demonstrations.

[1] The figures do not include an estimated 300,000 Jewish Israelis living in East Jerusalem

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