Former world leaders warn against Israeli annexation plans

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - A group of former world leaders on Friday urged European states to keep pressuring Israel against annexation of parts of the West Bank, warning against complacency after the plans to take over the territory on July 1 were delayed.

The Elders, founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, said in letters to the leaders of France, Germany, Britain and the European Union that they should insist to Israel that annexation would have negative political and economic consequences for bilateral and regional relations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had aimed to start the process on Wednesday, saying he wanted to begin annexing West Bank territory in line with US President Donald ’s Mideast plan.

But Israeli Cabinet minister Ofir Akunis said the annexation process had been delayed, telling Israel’s Army Radio station on Wednesday that officials were still working out the final details with their American counterparts. He said he expected the annexation to take place later in July.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Pawan Singh / The National
Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Pawan Singh / The National

The two-state solution, backed by the UN Security Council and the vast majority of the international community, envisions an independent Palestinian state in the entire West Bank — territory Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 — and Gaza, with agreed land swaps. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their state but the future of Jerusalem is considered a final status issue to be decided in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The US peace plan, unveiled in January, envisions bringing some 30 per cent of the West Bank under permanent Israeli control and gave a green light for Israel to annex that land. The plan would establish a disjointed Palestinian state with limited autonomy in carved-up pockets of the remaining territory. The Palestinians have vehemently rejected the plan as pro-Israeli.

The delay cast further uncertainty over whether Israel will ultimately follow through on the explosive annexation initiative, which has also drawn fierce international condemnation from some of Israel’s closest allies.

A mural against Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank on the main road of Rafah refugee camp in Gaza. AP
A mural against Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank on the main road of Rafah refugee camp in Gaza. AP

The United Nations, the EU and key Arab countries have all said annexation would violate international law and undermine the already diminished prospects of establishing a viable independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The Elders — led by former Irish President Mary Robinson with Mandela’s widow Graca Machel and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as co-chairs — said annexation “is fundamentally contrary to the long-term interests of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples”.

They said annexation “will not dampen future Palestinian demands for rights and self-determination, but destroying hopes in a two-state compromise will increase the risks of future violence in one of the most combustible areas in the world”.

The Elders called on EU leaders to consider suspending the 27-member bloc’s Association Agreement with Israel if annexation goes ahead in any form. They also recalled the United Kingdom’s “historical and abiding responsibility” as the colonial power in pre-1948 Palestine.

The Elders’ letters followed an appeal from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Israel to call off the annexation plan.

In a front-page article on Wednesday in Yediot Ahronot, one of Israel’s largest newspapers, Mr Johnson wrote that as a “passionate defender of Israel,” he was fearful that annexation will fail in the country’s objective of securing its borders, “and will be contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests”.

“I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead,” he said. “If it does, the UK will not recognise any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between both parties.”

In addition to opposing annexation, the Elders reiterated their support for Israeli and Palestinian human rights defenders and civil society activists, saying their “voices need to be protected and amplified at this challenging time.”

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Palestinian protesters wave flags as Israeli troops take position during a protest against Jewish settlements in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. Reuters

Now that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has secured a new term in office, there’s little to prevent him from annexing large parts of the West Bank as early as this summer. AP

An Israeli soldier stands guard during a tour made by Israeli parliament members in the Jordan Valley near the Jewish settlement of Maale Efrayim. Reuters

Israeli soldiers take position as Palestinian demonstrators gather during a protest against expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. AP

King Abdullah (r) of Transjordan on May 13, 1948 in Amman with Abed Al Rahman Azzam, the secretary general of the Arab League and Abd Al Elah Ibn Ali, the Prince Regent of Iraq, the day before the beginning of the first Arab-Israeli War. AFP

Palestinians surrender to Israeli soldiers in June 1967 in the occupied territory of the West Bank after Israel launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt and Syria and seized the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights in Syria as well as the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem. AFP

A Palestinian child plays in a refugee camp in Jordan on June 23, 1967. AFP

PLO chairman Yasser Arafat delivers a speech to the Palestine National Council meeting to make the historic proclamation of a Palestinian state in the Israeli-occupied territories and to recognize Israel in the Palace of Nations conference hall on November 12, 1988, in Algiers. AFP

US President Bill Clinton stands between PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzahk Rabin as they shake hands for the first time on September 13, 1993 at the White House. AFP

Hussein Ibn Talal, King of Jordan and Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin shake hands after they exchanged the documents of the Peace Treaty at Beit Gabriel conference centre on November 10, 1994 on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee. AFP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the Palestinian leadership meeting and threatened to end security coordination with Israel and the United States, saying Israeli annexation would ruin chances for peace. AFP

Houses in the Israeli settlement of settlement of Kedumim are seen in the foreground as part of the Palestinian city of Nablus is seen in the background (far left) in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Reuters

Israel's controversial concrete barrier (C) separating the Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov (foreground) in the northern part of east Jerusalem and the Palestinian area of al-Ram (background) in the occupied West Bank. AFP

An Israeli activist holds a banner during a protest against the US peace plan for the Middle East, in front of the US ambassador's residence in Jerusalem, on May 15, 2020, as Palestinians commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the 1948 Nakba or "catastrophe". AFP

A Palestinian shepherd tends to his camels on arid land considered to be in "Area C" (under Israeli security and administrative control), southeast of Yatta town in the southern West Bank district of Hebron. AFP

A general view of the Israeli settlement of Elon Moreh, as seen from the Palestinian village of Azmout near the West Bank City of Nablus. EPA

File photo: The West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Michmash. AP

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Updated: July 4, 2020 03:08 AM

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