The National / May 19, 2020
French foreign minister warns Netanyahu of European backlash if he proceeds with unilateral annexation
Israeli designs for annexation of the occupied West Bank are an “acid test” for the global rule of law, senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi has said.
Speaking from Ramallah in a webinar organised by the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), Ms Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee, said the international community had to respond with concrete action to renewed statements from the Israeli government over the planned annexation of occupied West Bank settlements.
“The human rights movement globally understands now in many cases that what you do with Palestine and the Palestinian issue has become a real acid test of your own conscience and the global rule of law,” the PLO official said.
“We need to go beyond statements, we need to go beyond censure and declarations,” she added.
The Palestinian official accused Israel of violating bilateral agreements with Europe over the issue of settlements without consequence. “Not only has Israel not been punished or sanctioned, it has benefited from the special relationship with the EU,” she said.
As Israel’s new unity government was approved by Parliament earlier this week and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was returned to office, the Israeli leader vowed once again to bring the settlements in the occupied West Bank, deemed illegal by much of the international community, under Israeli sovereignty.
Throughout months of political deadlock in Israel, Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly promised to annex the occupied West Bank outposts, land Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War that the Palestinians seek for their own permanent state.
Following his investiture on Sunday, the Israeli prime minister said he would deliver that pledge, a policy seemingly backed by the US administration of President Donald Trump, whose top diplomat Mike Pompeo visited Israel last week.
“These regions are where the Jewish nation was born and rose. It is time to apply Israeli law on them and write another great chapter in the annals of Zionism,” Mr Netanyahu said.
On Tuesday, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian fired a shot across the bow of the new Israeli government over the annexation proposals. He said France “calls on the Israeli authorities to refrain from any unilateral measure which would lead to the annexation of all or part of the Palestinian Territories”.
“Such a decision,” Mr Le Drian added, “could not be without consequences for the European Union’s relations with Israel”.
The French government’s statement follows warnings from the European Union’s foreign policy head Josep Borrell last week. Mr Borrell said any moves towards annexation would be a clear violation of the two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.
Dr Ashrawi explained that deterrents to Israeli annexation needed to be put in place before Mr Netanyahu enforced any such move.
“All European countries, including post-Brexit Britain, have all been committed to international law, international humanitarian law and multilateralism,” she said.
“Stop all these things, not just as a statement … but with clear consequences.”
Callum Paton – journalist, London