Middle East Eye / June 29, 2020
The coalition of parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel called on the British PM and opposition leader to act before Israel unveils its plans on Wednesday.
Israel’s main political coalition for Palestinian citizens of Israel has written to the heads of Britain’s biggest political parties, calling on them to vigorously oppose Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
The two letters, dated 26 June and penned by Yousef Jabareen, the head of the Joint List’s international relations committee, were sent to the UK Conservative party leader, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the Labour party’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer. In the letters, parliamentarians said the UK needed to “actively oppose” attempts by Israeli to unilaterally annex territory.
“History has demonstrated the tragic consequences of illegal annexations,” the letter read.
“We fear that if Britain and its European allies do not urgently act to prevent this impending annexation, our region may witness yet another major upheaval.”
On 1 July, the Israeli government is expected to unveil its plan to formally annex large swathes of the occupied West Bank – a move deemed illegal under international law – under a deal struck between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz last month as part of their coalition government.
US President Donald Trump made his full Israel-Palestine proposal public in January. It was rejected outright by Palestinians, who denounced it for paving the way for annexation of key parts of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley and settlements long considered illegal by the majority of the international community.
“Along with the international community and the Palestinian leadership, we advocate for the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital alongside the state of Israel,” the Joint List letter read. “Any act of annexation – whether of the Jordan Valley, or of the so-called settlement blocs – will deal a fatal blow to the two-state solution and lasting peace in the region.
“Accordingly, we respectfully urge you to convey to Israel’s political leadership that you will not hesitate to act forcefully against any Israeli attempt to annex settlements and impose Israeli sovereignty over parts of the occupied West Bank,” the letter added.
Johnson had previously stated that he believed Israel’s annexations would be in violation of international law and reiterated his support for a two-state solution.
However, in January he praised Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” plan, claiming it had the “merit of a two-state solution” for proposing a fragmented Palestinian state on small chunks of land with limited sovereignty.
Starmer’s predecessor at the head of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, was known as an outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights – but Starmer has been keen to distance the party from appearing hostile to Israel.
Last week, he sacked Shadow Education Minister Rebecca Long-Bailey for retweeting an interview with actor Maxine Peake, in which the latter suggested US police used techniques learned from Israeli security forces in the pacification of suspects – something which Starmer claimed was an “antisemitic conspiracy theory”.
UN rights chief warning
Meanwhile, the United Nations’ human rights chief on Monday called the annexation plans “illegal” and warned that the consequences could be “disastrous”.
“Annexation is illegal. Period,” said Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, in a statement.
“Any annexation. Whether it is 30 percent of the West Bank, or five percent,” she added, urging Israel to “listen to its own former senior officials and generals, as well as to the multitude of voices around the world, warning it not to proceed along this dangerous path”.
Her statement cautioned that such a move would almost certainly lead to increased restrictions on Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement, as their population centres would become enclaves.
In addition, significant tracts of private Palestinian land would likely be illegally expropriated and even in cases where this did not occur, many Palestinians could lose access to cultivate their own lands.
Palestinians who found themselves living inside the annexed areas would likely experience greater difficulty accessing essential services such as healthcare and education, while humanitarian access could also be blocked.