July 1 is an ominous day for Palestinians, when Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is set to leap forward into formal annexation. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held onto his office by forging a power-sharing agreement with his political rival, Benny Gantz, that gave him the authority he needed to deliver on his biggest campaign promise: unilaterally annexing Israel’s settlements in the West Bank as soon as next month.
The plans for annexation prompted a reckoning in Ramallah, where President Mahmoud Abbas announced last month that the Palestinian Authority would no longer coordinate with Israel on security or adhere to any existing agreements going back to the Oslo Accords. “The Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments, and of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones,” Abbas declared at an emergency meeting.
In some ways, the United States, under President Donald Trump, paved the way for this moment. In 2018, Trump announced that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. That decision countered decades of formal U.S. policy that had recognized both Israeli and Palestinian claims to Jerusalem, which was supposed to be a shared capital in the two-state solution set in motion by the Oslo peace process. The Trump administration has also cut hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Palestinians; recognized Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria after the 1967 war; and put forward a long-awaited and highly controversial new peace plan, if it can really be called that. Unveiled in February and billed by the Trump White House as the “deal of the century,” it favored Israel far more openly than any past American proposal, allowing it to annex all its settlements in the West Bank as well as the Jordan Valley, leaving the Palestinians with barely a state at all. Senior U.S. officials have since said that Israel is free to decide whether to move ahead with annexation, effectively giving it the green light.