Israel backs down over land grab

Netanyahu had threatened to begin annexations on Wednesday. (AFP)
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Updated 01 July 2020

Israel backs down over land grab

  • • Washington has not given green light for annexing a third of West Bank, analysts tell Arab News
  • • Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to act on July 1 but coalition partner Benny Gantz wants delay

AMMAN: Israel is expected to back down over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threat to annex swaths of the West Bank and Jordan Valley.
The new land grab is part of US President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian “peace plan,” unveiled in January, which proposes Israeli sovereignty over a third of the West Bank and the  creation of a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu had threatened to begin annexations on Wednesday, but no session of the Israeli Cabinet is scheduled and analysts told Arab News on Tuesday they expected no significant moves.
Wadie Abunassar, director of the International Centre for Consultation in Haifa, said there were three reasons for Netanyahu’s failure to carry out the threat.
“He has not received the green light from the Americans yet, he has received several strong messages from Arab and foreign countries, and despite all the attention


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Netanyahu has no political need to take such a step now.”
Palestinian leaders, the UN, European powers and the Gulf states have all denounced the proposed annexation of land that Israel captured in the 1967 war.
In addition, Netanyahu’s coalition partner Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, has urged a delay until the coronavirus pandemic has receded.
Israeli Education Minister Zeev Elkin dismissed the likelihood of any immediate annexations.

SPOTLIGHT: Why Netanyahu should abandon rhetoric of Palestinian land annexation

“Whoever painted a picture of everything happening in one day, on July 1, did so at their own risk,” he said on Tuesday. “From tomorrow, the clock will start ticking.”
Hani Al-Masri, head of the Masarat think tank in Ramallah, said the Palestinian leadership was keeping its options open.
“They are waiting to see the results of the US elections in November, and will be more worried about annexation during the transitional period if President Trump loses, but if Trump wins the Palestinian side will be in big trouble,” he said.Ofer Zalzberg, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, told Arab News: “It is true no annexation will take place on July 1, but it too early to celebrate. Israel will return to the White House to see if US presidential adviser Jared Kushner will agree to allow Netanyahu to push through the annexation without the support of the Blue and White Party.”

UN fails to find consensus after Russia, China veto on Syrian aid

A woman talks with a soldier of the Syrian army during distribution of humanitarian aid from the Russian military, in the town of Rastan, Syria. (AP)
Updated 21 min 27 sec ago

UN fails to find consensus after Russia, China veto on Syrian aid

  • Russia and China argue that the UN authorization violates Syria’s sovereignty, and that aid can increasingly be channeled through Syrian authorities

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council failed to find a consensus on prolonging cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria on Friday after Russia and China vetoed an extension and members rejected a counter proposal by Moscow.
Without an agreement, authorization for the transport of aid to war-torn Syria, which has existed since 2014, expired Friday night.
Germany and Belgium were working on a final initiative to save the effort, with hopes of bringing it to a vote this weekend.
“We are ready to work round the clock, and call on others to think of the millions of people in Syria waiting for the Security Council to decide their fate,” said German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, who holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month.
After Moscow and Beijing wielded vetoes for a second time this week, only three countries joined Russia in backing its proposal to cut the number of aid transit points from two to one.
China supported Russia, but seven countries including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Belgium voted against, with four abstentions.
An attempt by Russia to pass a similar resolution also failed earlier this week.
The NGO Oxfam had warned that stopping cross-border aid would be “a devastating blow to the millions of Syrian families who rely on this aid for clean water, food, health care and shelter.”
Thirteen countries voted in favor of an earlier German-Belgian draft, but Moscow and Beijing opposed the extension because they favor a more limited proposal.
European countries and the US want to maintain two crossing points on the Turkish border — at Bab Al-Salam, which leads to the Aleppo region, and Bab Al-Hawa, which serves the Idlib region.
The UN authorization allows the body to distribute aid to displaced Syrians without needing permission from Damascus.
Russia and China argue that the UN authorization violates Syria’s sovereignty, and that aid can increasingly be channeled through Syrian authorities.
The latest proposal by Russia, which claims to want continued aid for the insurgent Idlib region, would have kept only the Bab Al-Hawa access point open, and for one year.
Moscow claims that more than 85 percent of current aid goes through Bab Al-Hawa and that the Bab Al-Salam entry point can therefore be closed.
Western countries oppose it, with the US having described two entry points as “a red line.”
In January, Moscow, Syria’s closest ally, succeeded in having the crossing points reduced from four to two and in limiting the authorization to six months instead of a year.
According to Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, keeping only one border crossing open would cut off 1.3 million people living north of Aleppo from humanitarian aid.
Another diplomat noted that “if the authorization is renewed a few days late, it is not the absolute end of the world. It suspends the convoys for a few days, it does not put them in danger.”
For the UN, keeping as many entry points open as possible is crucial, particularly given the risk of the coronavirus pandemic, which is spreading in the region.
In a report in June, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a one-year extension of the aid to include the two current access points.
When asked Thursday if the UN would be satisfied with a single entry point into Syria, body spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “We need more aid to go through the border. We do not need less to go through.”
David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, called it a “dark day” for Syrian civilians and the UN.
He added it “defies logic or humanity to dismantle a system designed to bring life-saving aid to Syrians in the form of food, health supplies, vaccines, and now critical COVID-19 provisions.”