Israeli leader vows to push ahead with annexing West Bank

Israeli border police and police keep watch as supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protest outside the Prime Minister's Residence, on the day when Netanyahu's corruption trial starts, in Jerusalem May 24, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 May 2020

Israeli leader vows to push ahead with annexing West Bank

  • Netanyahu said Israel had a “historic opportunity” to redraw the Mideast map that could not be missed
  • The Palestinians seek the entire West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday pledged to annex parts of the occupied West Bank in the coming months, vowing to move ahead with the explosive plan despite a growing chorus of condemnations by key allies.
The Palestinians, with wide international backing, seek the entire West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state. Annexing large chunks of this territory would all but destroy the faint remaining hopes of a two-state solution.
In an apparent reference to the friendly administration of President Donald Trump, Netanyahu said Israel had a “historic opportunity” to redraw the Mideast map that could not be missed. Israeli media quoted him as saying he would act in July.
“This is an opportunity that we will not let pass,” he told members of his conservative Likud party. He added that the “historic opportunity” to annex the West Bank had never before occurred since Israel’s founding in 1948.
The comments threatened to push Israel closer to a confrontation with Arab and European partners, and could deepen what is becoming a growing partisan divide over Israel in Washington.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war. It has settled nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers in the territory, but never formally claimed it as an Israeli territory due to stiff international opposition.
But the Trump administration has taken a much softer line toward Israeli settlements than its predecessors. Trump’s Mideast team is dominated by advisers with close ties to the settlements, and his Mideast plan, unveiled in January, envisions leaving some 30% of the territory under permanent Israeli control while giving the Palestinians expanded autonomy in the rest of the area. The Palestinians have rejected the plan, saying it is unfairly biased toward Israel.
With Trump’s re-election prospects uncertain this November, Israeli hard-liners have urged Netanyahu to move ahead with annexation quickly. The Israeli leader’s new coalition deal includes an official clause allowing him to present his annexation plan to the government in July.
Israeli media quoted him as telling Likud members that “we have a target date for July and we don’t intend to change it.” The quote could not immediately be confirmed.
The plan has already exposed a partisan divide in Washington. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee in the US presidential elections, recently said that annexation would “choke off” hopes for a two-state solution. 18 Democratic senators warned in a letter this week that annexation could harm US-Israeli ties.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has said annexation would violate international law and vowed to use “all our diplomatic capacities” to stop it.
Closer to home, the Palestinians last week cut off security ties — a valuable tool in a shared struggled against Islamic militants — with Israel to protest the annexation plan.
Saudi Arabia, an influential Arab country that maintains behind-the-scenes relations with Israel, announced its “rejection of the Israeli measures and plans to annex Palestinian lands.”
The Arab League has condemned it as a “war crime,” and both Jordan and Egypt — the only two Arab countries at peace with Israel — have harshly criticized it.
Netanyahu spoke a day after beginning his trial on corruption charges.
The prime minister launched a blistering tirade against the country’s legal system when he arrived at court, accusing police, prosecutors and media of conspiring to oust him. As he spoke, hundreds of supporters cheered outside.
Speaking to Likud on Monday, Netanyahu said he was “very moved” by the support.
Critics have said his attacks on the justice system risk undermining the country’s democratic foundations.


Libya Speaker urges action on Turkish intervention

Updated 1 min 58 sec ago

Libya Speaker urges action on Turkish intervention

CAIRO: Speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, held talks on Monday with Egyptian officials and the US envoy on dealing with the Turkish intervention in Libya.


On the second day of his visit to Cairo, Saleh met with US envoy to Libya Richard Norland and agreed to meet with Western delegations in addition to the Egyptian leadership.


Saleh held talks with Norland on maintaining the cease-fire and reopening talks to end the crisis in the country.


He said that the parliament is adhering to the outcomes of the Berlin international conference and the Cairo initiative, and called for the withdrawal of reconciliation government militias from around the Sirte and Jufra oil crescent areas.


The Libyan parliament website said that Saleh and the US ambassador discussed developments in Libya and sought ways to reach a solution in the country according to the Cairo declaration and the outcome of the Berlin summit.


“The meeting discussed the steps taken to move forward with work on the initiative of Aguila Saleh, which culminated in the Cairo declaration according to the outcomes of the Berlin conference,” media adviser to the Speaker, Hamid Al-Safi, said, according to the Libyan News Agency in Benghazi. 


Al-Safi said the meeting reached an agreement to continue the cease-fire. 


The Libyan News Agency said that Norland explained his country’s view on the necessity of stopping the fighting in Libya and that there is no military solution to the crisis. 


Germany, France and Italy intend to push for European sanctions against Turkey, which violated the arms embargo on Libya.


EU sources said that the three countries have prepared a list of companies and individuals who harness ships, aircraft or other logistical services to transport weapons.

The list includes three companies from Turkey and Kazakhstan, as well as two Libyans.


Saleh arrived in Cairo on Sunday to resume a series of international and regional meetings as part of efforts aimed to resolve the Libyan crisis. He will also meet with Egyptian officials as well as the American ambassador in Cairo for talks on restructuring the Presidency Council.


US President Donald Trump’s administration is seeking a demilitarized solution in Sirte and Jufra, and to reopen the country’s oil sector with full transparency between the Libyan parties.


Parliamentary media adviser Fathi Al-Marimi said that Saleh also discussed the removal of armed forces in Sirte and Jufra with the US envoy.


In statements carried by Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath satellite channel, he added that Saleh highlighted the need for a fair distribution of wealth, while the US enjoy stressed the need for a peaceful solution in Libya.


Saleh visited Cairo in the beginning of June, where he met President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan Army, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, to announce a political initiative to solve the Libyan crisis, called the Cairo declaration.