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23rd Feb 2024

EU peace plan at risk over Israeli annexations

  • Israeli forces have occupied the West Bank and Gaza since 1967 (Photo: breakingthesilence.org.il)

The EU-backed idea of a Palestinian state will become impossible if Israel fulfills its latest boast to annex parts of the West Bank, Arab countries have warned.

"The league regards these [Israeli] statements as undermining the chances of any progress in the peace process and will torpedo all its foundations," Arab League foreign ministers said after an emergency meeting in Cairo on Tuesday (10 September).

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The boast, issued by Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, earlier the same day, was a "dangerous development and a new Israeli aggression", the league added.

Such rhetoric alone could "push the whole region towards violence", Jordan's foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, warned.

And if Netanyahu actually did it, he would have "succeeded in burying any chance of peace between Palestinians and Israelis", Saeb Erekat, Palestine's chief peace negotiator, said.

"The ... international community must stop such madness," he said.

The EU and the UN support the creation of a future Palestinian state alongside Israel as the only way to end the 100-year old conflict.

The EU foreign service had not reacted to Netanyahu's pledge by Wednesday morning, but some European opinion makers voiced dismay.

"Putin just takes over Crimea in clear violation of international law. And now Netanyahu announces his intention to do the same with the West Bank," former Swedish prime minister and foreign minister Carl Bildt said, referring to Russian president Vladimir Putin's dismemberment of Ukraine five years ago.

"The jungle is approaching. It's a new age of disorder," Bildt said.

Unilateral Israeli annexation would be "devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations, regional peace, and the very essence of a two-state solution," a UN spokeswoman also said.

Netanyahu made his promise in a speech on Israeli TV.

"Today, I announce my intention, after the establishment of a new government, to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea," he said.

The territories account for some 30 percent of the West Bank and are home to tens of thousands of Palestinians.

The Israeli leader spoke ahead of snap elections next Tuesday in what his opponents called an "electoral trick" to win right-wing votes.

"It's not even a particularly successful trick, because the lie is so transparent," a senior opposition MP, Yair Lapid, said.

Netanyahu made a similar promise in April and never followed through, Lapid noted. "[He] doesn't want to annex territories, he wants to annex votes," the opposition co-leader said.

But this time was different due to US president Donald Trump's green light, Netanyahu insisted.

Thanks to "my personal relationship with president Trump, I will be able to annex all the settlements in the heart of our homeland," he said.

"We haven't had such an opportunity since the Six Day War, and I doubt we'll have another opportunity in the next 50 years," he added, referring to a 1967 war in which Israeli forces conquered the West Bank and Gaza.

He promised to do it "immediately after the election".

But he also said he would wait for Trump to first unveil his new peace plan for the Middle East, in a move expected in autumn.

"There is no change in United States policy at this time," a US official told press on Tuesday.

"We will release our Vision for Peace after the Israeli election and work to determine the best path forward to bring long-sought security, opportunity, and stability to the region," the official said.

The EU has been kept largely in the dark on Trump's thinking.

But he earlier endorsed Israel's 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria in a potential sign of things to come.

He also moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Israel conquered in 1967, in symbolic support of Israel's unilateral claim to the Holy City.

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