Annexation and the Violation of Human Rights

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What are the possible human rights implications of annexing parts of the West Bank? In these experts from a more detailed analysis in Hebrew, IDI Vice President Prof. Yuval Shany and Prof. Amichai Cohen, the Director of the Center for Security and Democracy, detail the rights that might be violated if the plan moves forward.

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Link to the full Hebrew document.

The Government’s annexation plan considers imposing Israeli sovereignty on large portions of the West Bank, chiefly in the Jordan Valley and in the land on which Jewish settlements have been constructed. 

Annexation is likely to lead to concrete violations of Palestinians’ human rights, especially of those living in the Jordan Valley and in close proximity to the settlements.

The extent of these violations will depend on the specific details of the annexation measures instituted by the Government. The annexation of 30% of the West Bank would lead to quite different results from a much more limited move (for instance, annexing only Ma’ale Adumim). And there is of course a difference between a decision to annex the entire territory with all its residents, and a map that carves out Palestinian “enclaves” without applying Israeli sovereignty to them.

The potential infringements of Palestinians’ rights can be divided into three categories.

Sovereignty Without Citizenship

The first cluster of potential human rights violations would derive from an Israeli decision to annex territory populated by Palestinians, without offering them the option of acquiring full Israeli citizenship or permanent residency status (according to their choice).

The very failure to grant them citizenship or residency is in and of itself a grave violation of human rights, especially of the principle of equality and respect for human dignity. Even more serious would be a situation in which Israel launched a policy to expel Palestinians from the annexed territory.

The Creation of Enclaves and the Harm to Their Residents

A more likely scenario is one in which Israel draws the annexation map in a way that leaves as few Palestinians as possible living in the annexed territory. This would require the creation of multiple Palestinian “islands” surrounded by a “sea” of Israeli territory.

The creation of such Palestinian enclaves carries with it the potential threat of major and severe infringements of the human rights of their residents on several levels:

• The harm caused by the restrictions on their free movement into and out of their towns and villages, with the latter becoming—in effect- islands surrounded by Israel and completely dependent thereon

• The infringement of the property rights of Palestinians whose lands would now be part of Israel, while they themselves would be living outside the State

• Harm to the fundamental right to equality by virtue of the very fact that the map is drawn in a way that creates enclaves, bringing with them an inherent infringement of rights— and that this is in effect, equivalent to depriving the residents of citizenship or residency status—on the basis of their national affiliation.

The Harm Done to all Palestinian Residents of the West Bank

The imposition of Israeli sovereignty on portions of the West Bank is liable to harm the property rights and freedom of movement of all residents of the area, for whom Israel bears responsibility under international law as occupatio bellica (a belligerent occupier). 


Israel’s plan to annex large portions of the West Bank has triggered much debate.

Although the IDI document does not discuss the legality of annexation per se, it highlights the potential multiple violations of the human rights of the Palestinian residents which might result from the planned annexation. In particular, we focused on the harm to the tens of thousands of Palestinians put under permanent Israeli control who will not be granted Israeli citizenship or even permanent resident status. With regard to this population, Israel seems to be planning the creation of Palestinian enclaves surrounded by the annexed territory, so that the Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley or adjacent to Jewish settlements will be left outside the annexed areas, but also totally detached from the Palestinian Authority. 

In our view, the following are the major potential violations of Palestinian’s rights: 

• The violation of rights inherent in the creation of a group of people living under Israeli rule but with no political rights 

• The infringement of freedom of movement and of other rights, such as the rights to health and education, liable to be caused by the creation of Palestinian enclaves

• The potential infringement of the property rights of residents of these enclaves whose land is annexed to Israel

• The harm inherent in the demarcation of enclaves in a way that discriminates against a population on the basis of its ethnic identity