Israel could soon begin the process of annexing some of the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to unilaterally apply Israeli law to portions of the territory—virtually guaranteeing their the permanent retention by Israel—looms alongside an even larger elephant in the room: Netanyahu is well on his way to ensuring that a real Palestinian state based on June 1967 borders with a capital in East Jerusalem goes the way of the dodo. Regardless of what happens with annexation, that will be his legacy—and it will likely be an irreversible one.
Leaders inside and outside the Middle East are now practically begging Netanyahu to show restraint. In recent weeks, the debate in Israel has shifted from whether to annex to how much to annex, underscoring the extent to which the game is being played on his terms. The Israeli prime minister faces trial for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust; a challenge from unruly right-wing coalition partners; a resurgence of COVID-19; an economic recession; and the perpetual problem of Iran. But if staying in power and permanently closing the door on the creation of a real Palestinian state are his immediate goals, he is winning, with a good deal of wind at his back.