Israeli annexation plan an ‘existential threat’ to Palestinian people: PM Shtayyeh

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah, West Bank on 13 April 2020. (Palestinian Prime Ministry)
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Updated 30 June 2020

Israeli annexation plan an ‘existential threat’ to Palestinian people: PM Shtayyeh

  • Premier warns Palestinians could one day be left ‘only with Gaza’ if controversial move goes ahead

LONDON: Palestine’s prime minister on Monday branded Israel’s annexation plan an “existential threat” to the Palestinian people and urged European countries to take the lead in multilateral peace negotiations.

In an online briefing premier Mohammad Shtayyeh said: “Annexation of the West Bank is part of the systematic destruction of a future Palestinian state, but not only that. It is an existential threat to Palestinians as a people.”

Israel’s parliament will on Wednesday vote on whether to initiate the highly controversial plan of annexing up to 30 percent of the West Bank.

Shtayyeh warned that if the move went ahead it could be the beginning of a far more expansive Israeli expansion, threatening almost all Palestinian land.

“This annexation is a creeping annexation — a gradual annexation — that will only end by Israel swallowing all of the West Bank. This would leave Palestinians only with Gaza,” he added.

Israel’s plans, which have been rejected outright by all Palestinian groups, were developed and approved by the US without consultation with the Palestinians.

Shtayyeh said this showed that America was not an “honest broker” in the negotiations and that it could not be trusted, adding that the US should no longer take the lead in the peace process.

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Instead, the PM urged a “paradigm shift from bilateralism to multilateralism,” and pushed for European countries and the EU to take the lead in negotiating a fair settlement.

He proposed an international conference to start a multilateral process and said: “We are ready for serious negotiations based on international law.” He added that British and European recognition of Palestinian statehood would be a justified and significant step in supporting the Palestinian people.

In a late development on the issue Monday, Benny Gantz, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition partner, suggested that the annexation vote may not take place on Wednesday at all, saying that Israel should instead focus on fighting the country’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

Netanyahu, however, told members of his Likud party that the issue was “not up to” Gantz.

Israeli plans for annexation have been met with widespread international condemnation, including from the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the EU.

Human rights experts from the UN have likened it to “21st-century apartheid,” and British Middle East minister, James Cleverly, told the UN Security Council last week that the UK “strongly opposes” annexation as a breach of international law. “Annexation could not go unanswered, and we implore Israel to reconsider,” he said.

However, it remains unclear what concrete steps the British government, EU and many other objecting countries will take should Israel follow through with the annexation.


Israel says ‘not necessarily’ behind all Iran nuclear site incidents

This photo released Nov. 5, 2019, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran. (AP)
Updated 17 min 47 sec ago

Israel says ‘not necessarily’ behind all Iran nuclear site incidents

  • In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to have been developed by the US and Israel, was discovered after it was used to attack Natanz

JERUSALEM: Israel’s defense minister said on Sunday it is not “necessarily” behind every mysterious incident in Iran, after a fire at the Natanz nuclear site prompted some Iranian officials to say it was the result of cyber sabotage.
Israel, widely believed to be the region’s only nuclear power, has pledged never to allow Iran to obtain atomic weapons, saying Tehran advocates its destruction. Iran denies ever seeking nuclear arms and says its atomic program is peaceful.
The underground Natanz site, where a one-story building was partly burned on Thursday, is the centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program and monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog.
Asked whether Israel had anything to do with “mysterious explosions” at Iranian nuclear sites, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said: “Not every incident that transpires in Iran necessarily has something to do with us.”
“All those systems are complex, they have very high safety constraints and I’m not sure they always know how to maintain them,” Gantz told Israel Radio.
Three Iranian officials who spoke to Reuters said they thought cyber sabotage had been involved at Natanz, but offered no evidence. Two said Israel could have been behind it.
An article by Iran’s state news agency IRNA addressed what it called the possibility of sabotage by enemies such as Israel and the US, although it stopped short of accusing either directly.
In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to have been developed by the US and Israel, was discovered after it was used to attack Natanz.
Last month, Israeli Security Cabinet Minister Zeev Elkin said Iran had attempted to mount a cyberattack on Israel’s water system in April.
Iran curbed its nuclear work in exchange for removal of most global sanctions under a 2015 accord with six world powers. It has reduced compliance since the US withdrew in 2018.

HIGHLIGHT

The underground Natanz site, where a one-story building was partly burned on Thursday, is the centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program and monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog.

A fire broke out at a power station in southwestern Iran on Saturday, the latest in a string of fires and explosions, some of which have hit sensitive sites.
The blaze, which affected a transformer in the power station in the city of Ahvaz, was put out by firefighters and electricity was restored after partial outages, Mostafa Rajabi Mashhadi, a spokesman for state-run power company TAVANIR, told the semi-official news agency Tasnim.
There have been several other incidents at facilities across the country recently.
A chlorine gas leak occurred at a unit of the Karoon petrochemicals plant near the port of Bandar Imam Khomeini on the Gulf, the Iranian Oil Ministry’s SHANA news agency reported.
“Some employees who were present near the unit suffered minor injuries (because of chlorine inhalation),” the plant’s director told SHANA, adding that the leak was stopped. A fire broke out at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility on Thursday, but officials said operations were not affected.
A former official suggested the incident could have been an attempt to sabotage work at the plant, which has been involved in activities that breach an international nuclear deal.
On Tuesday, 19 people were killed in an explosion at a medical clinic in the north of the capital Tehran, which an official said was caused by a gas leak.
On June 26, an explosion occurred east of Tehran near the Parchin military and weapons development base that the authorities said was caused by a leak in a gas storage facility in an area outside the base.