LONDON: The UK and the EU joined the UN in speaking out against Israeli annexation of the occupied West Bank on Thursday.
As part of a video briefing of the UN Security Council, UN Special Middle East Envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned against any such move, saying: “Annexation of parts of the West Bank would constitute a serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace.”
The intervention comes after the striking of a coalition government agreement on Monday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Likud, and Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White bloc, bringing to an end months of political stalemate featuring three elections in just 12 months.
Netanyahu, in a bid to win the support of pro-settlement voters, had placed annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank squarely on the policy table as part of his manifesto for election.
The agreement with Gantz has now solidified that position, with July 1 slated as the date legislation proposing annexations will advance.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said the White House welcomed the coalition agreement, adding that annexing parts of the West Bank is “ultimately Israel’s decision to make.”
Representatives from the UK, France, Germany and Brussels all set out their opposition to any such move.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, wrote to UN Security Council ahead of the meeting, saying: “The European Union’s position on the status of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 remains unchanged … The EU does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank.”
James Roscoe, acting UK deputy permanent representative to the UN, spoke about the dangers of the Israeli government continuing on the path toward further annexation, especially amid a global health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“During this fragile period, we call on both parties to avoid any provocative action, which might undermine the cooperation that is so critical. This includes incitement, settlement activity, demolitions and settler violence,” Roscoe told the council.
We are deeply concerned by reports that the new Israeli government coalition has reached an agreement which paves the way for annexation of parts of the West Bank.
James Roscoe, Acting UK deputy permanent representative to UN
“The UK is particularly concerned that demolitions have continued, including of temporary health centers, which weaken the capacity of Palestinians to respond to COVID-19. Under international humanitarian law, an occupying power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining public health and hygiene in the occupied territory to the fullest extent of the means available to it,” he said.
“We are deeply concerned by reports that the new Israeli government coalition has reached an agreement which paves the way for annexation of parts of the West Bank,” he added.
“The UK position is clear: Any unilateral moves towards annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel would be damaging to efforts to restart peace negotiations and would be contrary to international law.”
France’s Ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Rivière warned the UN that annexation “would not pass unchallenged and shall not be overlooked in our relationship with Israel.”
No fewer than 220 senior members of Israel’s security services signed a full-page advert published in various Israeli newspapers in April, warning the country’s MPs of the dangers of unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank.
They said such a move would throw Israel’s peace treaties with neighbors Egypt and Jordan into jeopardy.
On Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said: “No one should delude themselves that they can take advantage of the fact that the world is busy with the coronavirus crisis to violate our rights. We will not allow anyone to violate our rights.”