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.”