U.K., EU States Warn Netanyahu-Gantz Government Against West Bank Annexation

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Jewish settlement Kokhav Ya'akov in the West Bank, February 2020.
Jewish settlement Kokhav Ya'akov in the West Bank, February 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

The European Union and several European states, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom, reiterated their opposition to the Israeli government's aspiration to annex parts of the West Bank in light of the coalition deal between Benjamin Netanyahu and Gantz.

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"The European Union’s position on the status of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 remains unchanged," wrote foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Thursday, ahead of a meeting at the United Nations Security Counil.

"The European Union does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank," Borrell stressed. He said that the European Union would view any annexation as a serious violation of international law and "will continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly.

Israel regretted Borrell's statement and said it is unrepresentative of the position of member states. "Considering the depth of our relations, and in light of the fact that, once again, a similar proposed statement did not receive the support of the EU member states only yesterday, we wonder what policy the distinguished gentleman is vying to represent," an official statement read. Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz thanked "our friends in Europe who opposed Mr. Borrell’s announcement."

At the UN Security Council, the organization's Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said "Annexation of parts of the West Bank would constitute a serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace."

French Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière went further and said annexation "would not pass unchallenged and shall not be overlooked in our relationship with Israel."

The United Kingdom mission said it is concerned that the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition deal will pave the way for annexation and stressed that the action would violate international law and jeopardize the peace process. The German mission said it "advises against the annexation of occupied Palestinian territories" as this would have negative repercussions on the viability of the two-state solution and Israel's standing in the international community. 

Palestinian Ambassador Mansour Riyad said the pandemic has brought into light Israel's crimes and that Israeli forces are blocking the Palestinian Authority's attempts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. He said that if Israel chooses annexation, it should not be surprised by the resulting chain of events.

"How dare the Palestinian representative slander Israel's efforts and lie about IDF soldiers and blame them for spreading the virus, " replied Israel's Ambassador Danny Danon, calling Mansour's statements anti-Semitic.

A statement was also made by Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney, who wished the Israeli coalition process well but said annexation is prohibited under international law "whenever and wherever it occurs, in Europe’s neighbourhood or globally. This is a fundamental principle in the relations of states and the rule of law in the modern world. No one state can set it aside at will." 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former political rival Benny Gantz signed a coalition deal agreement Monday to co-lead an "emergency government", based on power share and rotation of the premiership. The two sides eventually agreed on annexation of parts of the West Bank, although it is not clear which.

According to the political deal, Netanyahu can advance legislation to annex parts of the West Bank starting July 1, on the condition that the move is supported by the U.S. administration. 

On Wednesday U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that annexing parts of the West Bank is "ultimately Israel's decision to make." In the first comment by a Trump administration official regarding the expected formation of a new government in Israel, Pompeo said the U.S. welcomed that development and is looking forward to continued cooperation with Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas commented Wednesday that “No one should delude themselves that they can take advantage of the fact that the world is busy with the coronavirus crisis to violate our rights. We will not allow anyone to violate our rights."

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