Pressure grows in UK for ‘consequences’ to Israeli West Bank annexation

Recent protests in the West bank against Israel's plans to annex part of the occupied Palestinian territory. (AFP/FIle)
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Updated 28 June 2020

Pressure grows in UK for ‘consequences’ to Israeli West Bank annexation

  • Political and civil society leaders urge total ban on imports from illegal settlements

LONDON: The British government is coming under increasing pressure to outline the “meaningful consequences” it will enact in response to Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Lisa Nandy, the opposition Labour Party’s foreign secretary, said the UK must ban imports of goods from illegal settlements if Israel moves forward with its plans.

The move, she said, would be a “major step” and require “courage that so far ministers have not been willing to show,” but “such a blatant breach of international law must have consequences.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel will “apply sovereignty” to 30 percent of the occupied West Bank as early as Wednesday, in a move widely seen as the final nail in the coffin for any future Palestinian state.

Lisa Nandy has called Israeli annexation of the West Bank a “shameful proposition.” (AFP/File)

In an interview with The Observer, Nandy said the proposal, “is an illegal act which will undermine the prospect of a peaceful two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and has serious implications for the stability of the Middle East.

“It is a shameful proposition to which the UK cannot be a silent witness,” she added.

She urged “concrete action,” including “a ban on goods entering Britain from the illegal settlements of the West Bank.”

Civil society groups have also implored the British government to take meaningful steps against Israel.

A Christian Aid spokesperson said the UK should formally recognise the state of Palestine and “end all trade with illegal settlements” in response to annexation.

A coalition of UK-based humanitarian, religious, development and human rights organisations will issue a statement Monday urging the government to outline “clearly and publicly, what actual, meaningful consequences will result if Israel proceeds with its illegal annexation plans.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this month “strongly objected” to Israel’s plan and restated support for the two-state solution, but has thus far failed to outline clearly the steps the government will take in response to it.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan described the Israeli plan as a “dangerous escalation.”

Last week the UN and the Arab League called on Israel to drop the plan.

Belarus authorities free detainees amid protesters’ pressure

Updated 20 min 35 sec ago

Belarus authorities free detainees amid protesters’ pressure

  • Around midnight, scores of detainees were seen walking out of one of Minsk’s jails
  • The releases came hours after Belarus’ top law enforcement official apologized on state television for the indiscriminate use of force by police

MINSK, Belarus: Belarusian authorities have released dozens of people detained amid demonstrations contesting the results of the presidential election, in an attempt to assuage public anger against a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests.
Around midnight, scores of detainees were seen walking out of one of Minsk’s jails. In the early morning, volunteers also saw at least 119 detainees being released in the сity of Zhodino just northeast of the Belarusian capital. Ambulances arrived to carry those who apparently were unable to walk on their own.
The releases came hours after Belarus’ top law enforcement official apologized on state television for the indiscriminate use of force by police. “I take responsibility for what they say was violence against those people, who happened to be nearby and failed to back off quickly enough,” Interior Minister Yuri Karayev said late Thursday.
The apologies and the release of detainees follow five days of massive protests, in which crowds of demonstrators swarmed the streets to contest the vote results and demand an end to the 26-year rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. On Thursday, thousands of workers rallied outside industrial plants to denounce the police crackdown and push for a recount of Sunday’s vote.
Nearly 7,000 people have been detained and hundreds injured in the clampdown on demonstrators protesting the official results that said Lukashenko won 80% of the vote and his top opposition challenger only 10%. Police have broken up protests with stun grenades, tear gas, rubber bullets and severe beatings.
On Thursday, hundreds of women formed long “lines of solidarity” in several areas of the capital, Minsk. Many were dressed in white and carried flowers and portraits of detained loved ones.
The human chains grew throughout the day, filling Minsk’s main central squares and avenues and spreading to numerous other cities as motorists honked in support. In Minsk and several other cities, thousands of factory workers also rallied against the police violence, raising the prospect of strikes in a new challenge to the government. Protesters were shouting “Go away!” to demand Lukashenko’s resignation.
Amid growing public dismay, dozens of military and police veterans posted videos in which they dumped their uniforms and insignia in the trash. Several popular anchors at Belarus’ state TV stations have quit.
The demonstrations have spread even though the protest lacks leaders. The top opposition challenger in the vote, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, suddenly emerged Tuesday in neighboring Lithuania and called on her supporters to stop protests in a video that her associates said was recorded under pressure from law enforcement officials before she left. The 37-year-old former teacher had joined the race to replace her husband, an opposition blogger, who has been jailed since May.
The massive protests against election results and police brutality have been an unprecedented challenge to Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994 and earned the nickname of “Europe’s last dictator” for his relentless crackdown on dissent. The scope and ferocity of the police clampdown were remarkable even for Lukashenko’s iron-fisted rule, triggering widespread anger.
After dismissing protesters as mostly ex-convicts and unemployed, the authoritarian leader kept silent Thursday as the demonstrations spread quickly. Some reports said he was preparing an address to the nation.
A protester died Monday in Minsk when, according to the Interior Ministry, an explosive device he tried to throw at police blew up in his hand. Media reports challenged the ministry’s claim, alleging that he was killed by police. The place where he died quickly turned into a pilgrimage site, with hundreds of people, including European ambassadors, laying flowers there.
The authorities said that a detainee died in the southeastern city of Gomel, but the circumstances of his death weren’t immediately clear.
The brutal suppression of protests drew harsh criticism in the West.
European Union foreign ministers are set to meet Friday to discuss a response, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the 27-nation bloc would “increase the pressure” on Belarus.