Israel’s planned annexation of West Bank land is on hold, for now at least. If and when it takes place, annexation will in all likelihood take the form of a law extending Israeli sovereignty to certain areas of occupied territory.
In reality, Israeli law and administration has been implemented throughout the occupied West Bank to varying degrees in a process of creeping annexation since 1967.
To understand how this process works, it is necessary to know the legal mechanisms used to implement it so far, which will also facilitate an understanding of what is likely to happen as a result of annexation.
The West Bank was governed by Jordanian law until the 1967 War. Over the years, these laws were amended by hundreds of military orders. These orders incorporated everything from the Israeli value added tax system through customs regulations to traffic laws.
The military orders altered existing laws in all areas of Palestinian life, tying it, in a subservient fashion, to the Israeli economy and system of governance, but without extending any advantages. Palestinians thus did not enjoy the benefit of civil law, and general administration was in the hands of the Israeli military and military court system.
Israeli manipulations of the Jordanian legal regime – which itself was built on Ottoman and British Mandate law – also facilitated the takeover of Palestinian lands by Jewish settlers. A parallel system of administrative governance for the Jewish-only settlements, extending to them all the advantages of civil rather than military Israeli administration on a preferential basis, was also established.
Settlers were organized into “regional councils” which were allowed to form their own security units, separate from the army, and were given direct access to ministry budgets and services from Israel.