International Responses to Annexation: Lessons for Israel from Other Conflicts

Research / Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

Over the last decade, Israel has accelerated a long-term process of annexation in the West Bank through legal, political, physical and rhetorical steps that are both explicit, and increasingly irreversible. What kind of reaction can Israel expect from the international community if these policies continue? This paper summarizes the annexationist trends in Israel, then examines cases of post-World War II annexation, to map the range of international reactions. The analysis shows that the international community (states and meta-state bodies) has responded with diverse tools, all designed to oppose and deter annexation. Yet such measures have only rarely stopped or reversed annexation. When annexation was stopped or reversed, the international pressure focused on violations of other major international norms or reflected state interests. Israeli annexation outright, but the international community can be expected to step up concrete policies of opposition. Not only would such responses not be unique to Israel – it would be an anomaly if the international community did not undertake opposition measures. The paper concludes by proposing that the international community develop a more expansive understanding of the concept of annexation to improve deterrence, and re-commit itself to the fundamental proscription against conquering territory by force.

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