The United Nations and the European Union warned Israel not to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
The UN’s special Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov on Thursday said such a move would be a “devastating blow” to the internationally-backed two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as the EU said annexing Palestinian territory “would constitute a serious violation of international law”.
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Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz signed a coalition agreement that includes a clause to advance plans to annex parts of the West Bank, including Israeli settlements, starting on July 1.
Reporting from the UN, Al Jazeera’s James Bays said the formation of a government in Israel has brought the question of annexation into focus.
“The new coalition government in Israel makes the prospect of the annexation of parts of the West Bank much more likely. That means that areas currently seen as occupied under international law, would be brought under Israel’s sovereignty. At least that’s how Israel would see it,” he said.
In a video briefing with the UN Security Council, Mladenov warned that “the dangerous prospect of annexation by Israel of parts of the occupied West Bank is a growing threat”, and said such a move would violate international law.
The envoy said annexation would also “deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace.”
Separately on Thursday, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the bloc of 27 member countries does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Palestinian territory and that it will “continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly”.
Netanyahu’s pro-settler base is eager to move forward with annexation while the friendly administration of United States President Donald Trump is in office.
The White House’s long-awaited Mideast plan, unveiled earlier this year, envisions leaving parts of the West Bank under permanent Israeli control. The Palestinians have rejected the plan as biased.
Israel captured the West Bank during the 1967 Mideast war. Since then, more than 700,000 Israelis have moved into settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Most of the international community considers Israel’s West Bank settlements illegal according to international law and an obstacle to a two-state solution to the conflict.
The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of an independent state. Annexation of West Bank settlements would infuriate the Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbours, and eliminate any lingering hopes of establishing a viable Palestinian state.
The Netanyahu-Gantz deal stipulates that any Israeli action would need US backing, and must take into account Israel’s peace treaties with neighbouring Jordan and Egypt.