International opposition to Israel’s annexation of parts of the West Bank continued to gain momentum on Wednesday, with representatives of the UN, Russia and the Vatican expressing strong objections to the plan that could be implemented in July.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will advance plans to extend Israeli sovereignty as a key policy of his new coalition government.
Under the terms of the coalition agreement, he is free to move forward with unilateral annexation from July 1, however, his main partner, the leader of the blue and white party Benny Gantz, opposes unilateral action and would prefer to negotiate with the other parties concerned, such as the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.
At a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations Special Envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, called on Israel to abandon plans to annex parts of the West Bank and called on the Palestinians to resume talks with the so-called Quartet, comprising the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
“Israel must abandon threats of annexation”
“I call on my colleagues in the Middle East Quartet to work with the UN and come forward quickly with a proposal that would enable the Quartet to assume its mediation role and work together with the countries in the region to advance the prospect of peace,” Mladenov added.
Following the Security Council meeting and separate talks with Palestinian officials, the Vatican said that Israel’s possible annexation of large parts of the West Bank could further compromise the peace talks.
Respect for international law and UN resolutions is an “indispensable element for the two peoples to live together,” the Vatican said after a meeting between the head of foreign policy, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
The Vatican is closely monitoring the situation
“The Holy See is following the situation closely, and expresses its concern about any future action that could further compromise the dialogue,” the Vatican said in a statement.
He added that the Roman Catholic city-state hoped that a resolution would soon be found through direct talks “so that peace can finally reign in the Holy Land, so loved by Jews, Christians and Muslims.”
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday afternoon conveyed Moscow’s “strong objection” to the Israeli government’s plans to annex the West Bank in a conversation with his newly appointed counterpart, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, according to Israel’s Channel 13.
Israel’s unity government supports a plan launched by the U.S. president that would allow the annexation of large parts of the West Bank.
Netanyahu : “Annexation will not take us away from peace, it will bring us closer”
Trump’s plan has already been rejected by the Palestinians and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, he said Tuesday that he was voiding all agreements with Israel and the US as a result. But Netanyahu said this week that annexation “will not take us away from peace, it will bring us closer.”
Under the proposed plan, the United States will recognize an Israeli application of sovereignty over parts of the West Bank following a study by a joint U.S.-Israeli mapping committee, and Israel’s acceptance of both a four-year freeze on areas destined for a future Palestinian state and a commitment to negotiate with the Palestinians on the basis of the terms of the Trump peace agreement.
The latest round of condemnations comes after the European Union’s top diplomat warned Israel on Monday against annexing parts of the West Bank, saying the bloc would not recognise any changes to the 1967 lines not agreed in a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
In a statement congratulating Israel on the formation of a new government, Josep Borrell also said that the EU viewed Netanyahu’s commitment to push through the annexation with “serious concern”.
“We strongly urge Israel to refrain from any unilateral decision that could lead to the annexation of any occupied Palestinian territory and as such is contrary to international law,” he said.
Threats against Israel
Introducing his new government on Sunday, Netanyahu said that Israel’s law should be extended over the land of the West Bank.
Several European nations led by France, including Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg, have reportedly expressed support for threats of punitive action in an attempt to dissuade the new Israeli government from carrying out annexation with a green light from Washington.
Among the proposed measures is the announcement that Israel would be prevented from entering into trade agreements with the bloc, receiving subsidies from the European Union or engaging in other forms of cooperation with the Union. It is not clear whether the measures would apply to future agreements or whether existing ones would be frozen.
As part of their coalition agreement, Netanyahu and Gantz agreed that the government can begin to make progress on the implementation of Israeli sovereignty after 1 July, a measure that is expected to be supported by a majority of Knesset lawmakers.
Although Gantz opposes the unilateral action, he also says that he supports the Trump plan, and that he has accepted Netanyahu’s demand to allow the matter to be put to a vote in parliament.
Russia, UN and Vatican condemn unilateral Israeli annexation plan https://t.co/TZ5QlqrFsg
— The Times of Israel (@TimesofIsrael) May 20, 2020