European lawmakers reject Israeli West Bank annexation

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A Palestinian on a hillside overlooking Jericho, June 21, 2020. Benjamin Netanyahu, in September, pointed to a long blue zone to be annexed, leaving a brown speck in the middle: Jericho. (AFP)
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A Palestinian street vendor bakes bread on a saj, Jericho, June 21, 2020. Benjamin Netanyahu, in September, pointed to a long blue zone to be annexed, leaving a brown speck in the middle: Jericho. (AFP)
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Updated 25 June 2020

European lawmakers reject Israeli West Bank annexation

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls on Israel to abandon the annexation plan
  • The letter’s publication comes a week before the annexation process could begin, with Israel’s parliament able to vote on whether to begin annexation from July 1

LONDON: More than 1,000 parliamentarians from across Europe have signed a letter strongly opposing plans by Israel to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. 

The letter, published on Wednesday and whose signatories include 240 British legislators, raises “serious concerns” about Israel’s plans, and says acquisition of territory by force must have “commensurate consequences.” It stops short, however, of openly calling for sanctions. 

The letter’s publication comes a week before the annexation process could begin, with Israel’s parliament able to vote on whether to begin annexation from July 1. 

If passed, the move could incorporate up to 30 percent of the West Bank into Israel. Much of this land is already host to Israeli settlements considered illegal under international law, but is claimed by Palestinians for a future independent state of their own. 

Organized by former Israeli parliament Speaker Avraham Burg, the letter warns that allowing annexation to pass “unchallenged” will encourage other states with territorial claims to “disregard basic principles of international law.” 

The letter denounces plans to exert “effectively permanent Israeli control over a fragmented Palestinian territory, leaving Palestinians with no sovereignty and giving a green light to Israel to unilaterally annex significant parts of the West Bank.” 

The signatories — 1,080 parliamentarians from 25 European countries — also warned of the “destabilising potential” that annexation could have on the region, adding that “such a move will be fatal to the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace.” 

Israel’s annexation plans have been given the green light by the US as part of President Donald Trump’s Vision for Peace plan. 

Israel and the US describe the plan as a “realistic” two-state solution, but the Palestinians, who were not consulted, oppose it outright and have boycotted diplomatic relations with Washington. 

Trump’s plan has also proved controversial internationally, with the EU, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation all rejecting it on the basis of its incoherence with international law. 

In New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Israel to abandon the annexation plan. 

“If implemented, annexation would constitute a most serious violation of international law, grievously harm the prospect of a two-state solution and undercut the possibilities of a renewal of negotiations,” Guterres told the UN Security Council. 

“I call on the Israeli government to abandon its annexation plans,” he said. 

Guterres called on the Middle East Quartet of mediators — the US, Russia, the EU and the UN — “to take up our mandated mediation role and find a mutually agreeable framework for the parties to re-engage, without preconditions, with us and other key states.”


US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 38 min 16 sec ago

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.