100 jurists warn against Israel’s annexation of West Bank

Over a hundred jurists and law scholars from around the world, including scores from Israel, have said Israel’s plans to annex the occupied West Bank would “constitute a flagrant violation of bedrock rules of international law, and would also pose a serious threat to international stability in a volatile region.”

Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank would also “entail consequences of international wrongfulness, and – under certain circumstances – lead to individual international criminal liability,” a letter signed by the legal professionals said.

“The norm prohibiting unilateral annexation of territory acquired by force has come to be universally recognized as a basic rule of international law.”

The letter was directed at the State of Israel along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Minister of Justice Avi Nissenkorn, and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

Earlier this month, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, expressed concerns about the annexation plan. The ICC is investigating Israeli war crimes that may have been committed in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu has repeatedly said in recent weeks that Israel will annex approximately 30 per cent of the West Bank with measures coming into place from 1 July. In response to his announcement, the Palestinian Authority said that it is no longer bound by all agreements with Israel, including those relating to security.

US President Donald Trump yesterday authorized sanctions against ICC prosecutors and officials. Earlier this month, US Secretary Mike Pompeo doubled down on a previous promise to counter the ICC probe against Washington and Tel Aviv.

“I think that the ICC and the world will see that we are determined to prevent having Americans and our friends and allies in Israel and elsewhere hauled in by this corrupt ICC,” he told a podcast hosted by the right-wing American Enterprise Institute think tank.

German FM says Israel’s annexation violates international law

Two days ago, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Israel’s annexation of the occupied West Bank will be a violation of international law, Anadolu has reported. Maas made his comment at a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi during a visit to the occupation state.

The German official is the first European diplomat to visit Israel since the formation of its new government last month. He did not refer to specific European responses to the annexation decision if it goes ahead. The aim of his visit, he explained, “Is to learn more about Israel’s plans.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in May that his government intends to annex the Jordan Valley and all of the illegal settlement blocs in the West Bank early next month.

“There are currently important regional opportunities, most notably US President Donald Trump’s peace initiative,” said former Chief of the General Staff Ashkenazi, referring to the deal of the century. “We expect the international community to make clear to the Palestinians that their refusal to participate will not serve Palestinian interests.”

Although Maas was scheduled to visit the occupied Palestinian territories, the Israeli authorities informed him that if he went to Ramallah, he would have to be quarantined because of the coronavirus. Nevertheless, he will speak with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on the phone.

The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is designated as occupied territory under international law. As a result, all Jewish settlements as well as the planned annexation are illegal.

Palestinian officials have threatened to abolish bilateral agreements with Israel if it goes ahead with the annexation, arguing that it will further undermine the two-state solution.

Annexation is part of Trump’s “peace plan” which was announced on 28 January. It refers to Jerusalem as “Israel’s undivided capital” and recognizes Israeli sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank.

The plan also envisages the establishment of a Palestinian state in the form of non-contiguous enclaves linked by bridges and tunnels. They have been likened to the “Bantustans” created by the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

Palestinian officials say that under the US plan, Israel will annex 30 to 40 per cent of the occupied West Bank, including all of East Jerusalem.

Chile slams Israel’s annexation plan as ‘dangerous’

Chilean Foreign Minister Teodoro Ribera a few days ago slammed the Israeli plan to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank as a “dangerous step with unpredictable consequences” on achieving a just and peaceful, according to Wafa news agency.

Ribera stressed that annexation would hinder any peace settlement for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the two-state solution based on United Nations resolutions.

In a letter sent to his Palestinian counterpart, Riyad Al-Malki, Ribera stressed that the government of Chile is following with great interest and concern the impending Israeli plans.

He reiterated his country’s unwavering stance towards the Palestinian cause and stressed its commitment without restrictions to international law and UN resolutions, adding that Chile supports all efforts toward achieving a long-lasting peace and respecting and recognizing the right of both states to exist in peace within secure and recognized borders.

Annexation would destroy Israel-Arab normalization efforts, UAE envoy!

Further unilateral Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory would destroy any hopes for rapprochement between the Zionist state and the Arab world, warned the UAE Ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, in a first ever op-ed for an Israeli newspaper.

Writing in the largest Hebrew daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, Al-Otaiba, who is also minister of state, acknowledged that the UAE had played a key role in the Arab world’s recent embrace of Israel but all that would be undone by Israel’s planned annexation in July.

“A unilateral and illegal seizure of Palestinian land defies the international consensus on the Palestinian right to self-determination,” said Al-Otaiba, while warning that it “will send shockwaves around the region, especially in Jordan, whose stability — often taken for granted — benefits the entire region, particularly Israel.”

In his piece, published today, Al-Otaiba, one of a few Arab leaders to support President Donald Trump’s ‘peace plan’, said that the UAE had long “promoted engagement and conflict reduction, helped to create incentives-carrots rather than sticks — and focused attention on the collective benefits for all parties.” He cited Abu Dhabi’s listing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation and condemnation of Hamas, to support his suggestion that the UAE had played a serious role in advancing peace.

“We have conducted quiet diplomacy and sent very public signals to help shift the dynamics and promote the possible,” he added before warning that further illegal takeover of Palestinian territory “will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with UAE.”

Critics of the recent rapprochement between Israel and the Gulf state have warned of the dangers in seeking normalization with the Zionist state before it agrees to end its occupation of Palestine and conform to international law. Palestinians view Israel’s normalization within the Middle East as a reward for peace and agreeing to abide by international law to end the conflict. Offering normalization without peace undermines this formula and sends a dangerous message, argue the Palestinians.

Al-Otaiba appeared to suggest that the UEA’s embrace of Israel in recent years may have been misguided. He explained that “normal” relations with Israel which Tel Aviv seeks does not include annexation. “Annexation is a misguided provocation of another order”, insisted Al-Otaiba, “and continued talk of normalization would be just mistaken hope for better relations with the Arab states”.

“Annexation will also harden Arab views of Israel just when Emirati initiatives have been opening the space for cultural exchange and broader understanding of Israel and Judaism,” Al-Otaiba went on. “The UAE has encouraged Israelis to think about the upside of more open and normal links. And we have done the same among Emiratis and with Arabs more broadly.”

The past few weeks has seen world leaders universally condemning Israel’s annexation. US politicians took the unprecedented step of signaling that the two pillars of US relations with Israel; US security and bipartisan support Israel enjoys in Capitol Hill, would be jeopardized.

Israel reportedly to begin annexation with three settlement blocs

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly to begin annexing parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank with three large illegal settlements, with the Jordan Valley to come later, according to local media.

Netanyahu vowed in September that he would annex the Jordan Valley, forcibly claiming the territory as part of Israel, and revealed a map of 30 illegal Israeli settlements north of the Dead Sea that would be integrated into Israel as part of his plan.

However, according to the Times of Israel, Netanyahu has told settler leaders that the areas in which there are no settlements “have to wait” until an Israeli mapping committee finalizes a precise outline of the annexation plan.

Only three major Israeli settlement blocs – Maale Adumim in occupied East Jerusalem, Ariel in north of the West Bank and Gush Etzion near the cities of Bethlehem and Hebron, areas which do not require precise mapping – will be annexed on 1 July, according to anonymous officials who spoke to the Times of Israel.

Israeli officials believe these areas would “avoid some friction with Jordan, which the US is said to be concerned about”, reported the Times of Israel. Jordan’s King Abdullah warned last month that Israeli annexation could lead to “massive conflict” and a tearing up of his kingdom’s Wadi Araba of 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

The Jordan Valley and the area north of the Dead Sea are parts of the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and it is a highly strategic area rich in minerals and agricultural soil that lies along the Jordanian border.

It is thought, however, that Washington has long acknowledged that Israel would claim the settlements around Jerusalem and Ariel in any outcome, be that unilateral Israeli moves or a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

For Palestinians such a move would be no less disastrous. Annexing Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion would help sever the West Bank from East Jerusalem, also occupied in 1967.

Not only would that distance Palestinians in the West Bank from the holy city, it would impede the Palestinian aspiration to have an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Israeli officials told the Times of Israel that this “limited annexation” is a first step that allows Netanyhau to take it unilaterally with the approval of his coalition partner Benny Gantz and settler leaders.

In April, Netanyahu reached an agreement with his former rival Gantz to form a coalition government that would advance an annexation plan from 1 July.

In January, the US President Donald Trump unveiled his full Israel-Palestine plan which proposed for Israel to claim about a third of the West Bank in exchange for the recognition of a disjointed Palestinian state with no control over its borders or airspace.

To date, more than 600,000 Israeli settlers live in sprawling settlements and outposts in Israeli-controlled Area C, often in confrontational proximity to the three million Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The proposed annexations have been slammed by the Palestinians, and opposed by much of the international community, including the United Nations.