The UN warns of Israel annexing parts of the West Bank. The move could nullify any peace efforts.
A few days before possible steps by Israel, UN Secretary General António Guterres warned of the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank. “If implemented, the annexation would be a serious violation of international law, significantly impair the prospect of a two-state solution, and undermine the possibility of new negotiations,” Guterres said on Wednesday at the United Nations Security Council in New York. The UN chief spoke of a “turning point” in the Middle East conflict and urged the Israeli government to abandon its plans.
The Israeli government is using a plan by US President Donald Trump as the basis for annexation. The Palestinians are promised their own state, but under strict conditions. It provides around 70 percent of the area of the West Bank for the Palestinians. The Israeli settlements are said to remain. Israel could also “extend its sovereignty” to the strategically important Jordan Valley. Jerusalem is said to remain the undivided capital of Israel. The Palestinians claim the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for their future state with East Jerusalem as the capital.
Around three million Palestinians and more than 400,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday that if Israel annexed even “an inch” there, it would have to take responsibility for the civilian population. “Such an illegal move will force Israel to assume responsibility in the occupied country as an occupying power under the 4th Geneva Convention,” said Abbas at a virtual session of the Arab League Parliament. The convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population to occupied territory.
The Israeli government could take the first steps towards annexation from July 1. If it does so, observers fear the outbreak of new violence in the region. The EU classifies an annexation as a violation of international law.
The UN Middle East envoy Nikolai Mladenow spoke on Wednesday that a negotiated solution to the Middle East conflict is currently further away than ever. “There is a danger that more than a quarter of a century of international efforts to support a viable Palestinian state that lives in peace, security and mutual recognition with the State of Israel will end.”
If the annexation were implemented, the dynamic in the region could change dramatically and trigger instability in the entire occupied Palestinian territory. “Decisions could be made in the coming weeks that would cause irreparable harm to Palestinian and Israeli societies, the security and economic wellbeing of both peoples,” said Mladenow. In addition to the political problems, there were the dangers of the corona crisis, through which the Palestinians would have lost 80 percent of their monthly income.