Canada's Trudeau Joins International Opposition to Israel's Annexation Plans

Meanwhile, Fatah leadership calls on Palestinians to 'prepare' for annexation, but a senior official tells Haaretz its response would not be 'irreversible'

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Israeli soldiers taking position as Palestinian demonstrators gather during a protest against the expansion of Israeli settlements, in the West Bank village of Beita, near Nablus, March 2, 2020.
Israeli soldiers taking position as Palestinian demonstrators gather during a protest against the expansion of Israeli settlements, in the West Bank village of Beita, near Nablus, March 2, 2020.Credit: Majdi Mohammed/AP

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday in a statement congratulating Israel's new government that "in these times of uncertainty, our commitment to international law and the rules-based international order is more important than ever," hinting at the government's pledge to annex parts of the West Bank.

Trudeau's remarks, touting Canada and Israel's "long history as close friends," is the latest in statements made by leaders and international groups, warning the new government, sworn in on Sunday, against its annexation proposal.

Netanyahu’s office said Trudeau called him on Monday, adding in a statement they discussed the coronavirus pandemic and “the latest regional developments.”

Bibi swears in his colossal coalition and readies for a courtroom showdown Credit: Haaretz

Meanwhile, the Fatah Central Committee called on the Palestinian public to "prepare" for the consequences of a future Israeli annexation and pointed to comments from Jordan's King Abdullah II on Friday that if Israel proceeds with the plans it will lead to a "major clash" with his country.

A senior official told Haaretz that despite these remarks, the Palestinian leadership does not intend to respond with decisions or moves that would be "irreversible." This was despite continuous statements from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that annexation would bring an end to all Palestinian Authority agreements with Israel.

The settlement of Psagot in the West Bank, February 13, 2020Credit: Ammar Awad/ Reuters

The executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization will convene on Tuesday, also to discuss its response to the proposed annexation. The meeting was postponed from last week because the Palestinian leadership was waiting until after the swearing-in of the new Israeli government, according to Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh.

On Monday, Israel’s new Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said that the controversial Trump middle east peace plan will be pushed forward "responsibly, in coordination with the United States while safeguarding peace agreements and Israel's strategic interests."

Kahol Lavan leader and new Defense Minister Benny Gantz also said on Monday he was "committed to doing whatever is needed to advance diplomatic arrangements and to seek peace. Peace was and remains an important Zionist aspiration. At the same time, and for this purpose, we will preserve our power so we can exploit regional opportunities in general and to advance the American administration’s and President Trump’s peace plan, with everything it includes."

In Europe, high-level discussions have been going on for a number of days in an attempt to draw up sanctions to annexation that won’t require a consensus by mapping joint projects with Israel that could be damaged by unilateral steps that violate international law. At the same time, the continent gave positive messages to the new Israeli government about the possibility of "turning a new page" with Europe.

The EU released a statement on Israel's new government on Monday, congratulating Israel while drawing reference to the importance of international law. The statement noted that "the EU and its Member States recall that they will not recognize any changes to the 1967 borders unless agreed by Israelis and Palestinians."

In reference to annexation, the statement said that "we strongly urge Israel to refrain from any unilateral decision that would lead to the annexation of any occupied Palestinian territory and would be, as such, contrary to International Law."

President of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, known as S&D, Iratxe García Pérez said in a statement on Sunday that they are “deeply concerned about the birth of the new Netanyahu-led government.” Adding that Netanyahu’s continued premiership is a “dangerous… political programme,” that could lead to “Israel's illegal annexation of the occupied territories.”

The United States under President Trump has supported annexation as part of its so-called Middle East Peace Plan, but European states and the United Nations have all condemned annexation as illegal under international law and spelling disaster for the prospects of a two-state solution.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department’s spokeswoman said the Trump administration still wants to conduct direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as other regional actors, based on the administration’s Middle East plan.

Spokeswoman Megan Ortagus added that Israeli annexation moves in the West Bank should be discussed in the broader context of direct peace talks.

Last week, in during a whirlwind trip to Israel Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a joint statement that the new Israeli government presents an opportunity "to promote peace and security based on the understandings I reached with President Trump in my last visit in Washington."

Amir Tibon contributed to this report.

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