THE ISRAELI authorities must immediately abandon plans to further ‘annex’ territory in the occupied West Bank which breach international laws and exacerbate decades of systematic human rights violations against Palestinians there, Amnesty International (AI) said on the day the Israeli cabinet was due to begin its deliberations on the plans.
It also called on the international community to take firm action against the annexation proposals and illegal Israeli settlements in occupied territory.
‘International law is crystal clear on this matter – annexation is unlawful. Israel’s continued pursuit of this policy further illustrates its cynical disregard for international law.
‘Such policies do not change the legal status of the territory and its inhabitants under international law as occupied nor remove Israel’s responsibilities as the occupying power – rather it points to the “law of the jungle” which should not have a place in our world today,’ said Saleh Higazi, deputy regional director for Amnesty Middle East and North Africa
‘Members of the international community must enforce international law and restate that annexation of any part of the occupied West Bank is null and void. They must also work to immediately stop the construction or expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and related infrastructure in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a first step towards removing Israeli civilians living in such settlements.’
Under a deal to form a coalition government in April, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and political rival Benny Gantz agreed that a cabinet and parliament deliberations on the domestic process of annexing parts of the occupied West Bank that include Israeli settlements and the area of the Jordan Valley could begin as of 1 July.
Annexation is the claim to acquire territory by force and is a flagrant violation of international law. Such a step by Israel would violate the UN Charter, jus cogens norms of international law, and obligations under international humanitarian law, said AI. The prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force is enshrined as a fundamental principle in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.
Under domestic Israeli law, moves towards further annexation of Palestinian territory would mean a continuation of Israeli settlement expansion. It would also further entrench policies of institutionalised discrimination and mass human rights violations that Palestinians face in the occupied Palestinian territories resulting from the occupation, it added.
According to reports, the Israeli proposal could include as much as 33% of the total area of the West Bank.
Recently, dozens of UN experts have voiced concerns that the proposed annexation plan would create a ‘21st century apartheid’.
Israel’s policy of settling its civilians in occupied Palestinian territory and displacing the local Palestinian population continues to contravene fundamental rules of international humanitarian law, said AI. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: ‘The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.’
It also prohibits the ‘individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory’.
Transferring the occupying power’s civilians into the occupied territory is a war crime. Furthermore, the settlements and associated infrastructure are not temporary, do not benefit Palestinians and do not serve the legitimate security needs of the occupying power.
Settlements entirely depend on the large-scale appropriation and/or destruction of Palestinian private and public property which are not militarily necessary, according to the international human rights organisation.
‘Settlements are created with the sole purpose of permanently establishing Jewish Israelis on occupied land; this is a war crime under international law and “annexation” has no bearing on this legal determination,’ said Saleh Higazi
On 20 April, following Israel’s third elections in 10 months, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz formed a coalition government under a unity deal.
The deal included an agreement which would allow Israel’s government to start the domestic process of annexing parts of the occupied West Bank that include Israeli settlements and the area of the Jordan Valley. Israel’s annexation plans follow the announcement by US President Donald Trump’s so-called ‘deal of the century’ in January 2020 which proposed areas of the occupied West Bank be annexed by Israel.
Amnesty International has made it clear that the Trump Administration’s plan would serve only to worsen human rights violations and enshrine the entrenched impunity that has fuelled decades of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other grave violations.
The international community should also reject the so-called ‘deal of the century’, and any other proposal seeking to undermine the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of return of Palestinian refugees, said Amnesty, which also called on governments to offer their full political and practical support to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as it decides on its jurisdiction over the ‘situation in Palestine’.
The Israeli plan came publicly unstuck on Wednesday morning, July 1st, when Gabi Ashkenazi, a member of the centrist Blue and White party, which has partnered up with Netanyahu’s conservative Likud, told Israel’s Army Radio: ‘It seems unlikely to me that this will happen today.’
‘I reckon there will be nothing today, regarding (the extension of Israeli) sovereignty,’ he added.
Netanyahu also suggested that there would be a delay in his annexation plan after he failed to get the green light for the move both from his key coalition partner Benny Gantz and the United States.
Netanyahu said on Tuesday that discussions with the United States on his decision to annex Palestinian territories under President Donald Trump’s contentious Middle East plan would continue ‘in the coming days’, indicating he would miss his self-imposed July 1 target date.
The deal of the century envisions Jerusalem al-Quds as ‘Israel’s undivided capital’ and allows the Tel Aviv regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley. The plan also denies Palestinian refugees the right of return to their homeland, among other controversial terms.
Israel’s US-backed annexation scheme has triggered waves of protest rallies around the globe.
‘I spoke about the question of sovereignty, which we are working on these days and we will continue to work on in the coming days,’ Netanyahu said shortly after wrapping up talks with US Ambassador David Friedman and special Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz.
Netanyahu’s highly-contentious scheme to annex parts of the occupied Palestinian territory appears to be in disarray as his key coalition partner Ganz and a group of US lawmakers signalled their opposition to the move.
In recent days, Netanyahu and alternate prime minister Gantz have continued to spar publicly over the timing of the annexation plans, with the latter stating that it is too early to begin implementing them.
Speaking in an interview with the Ynet news site, Gantz said he believed that Israel had not yet gained the necessary diplomatic backing for implementing annexation plans.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV reported on Tuesday that American negotiators were asking Israel to make ‘a significant step as a gesture to the Palestinians, such as handing over some lands in Area C of the West Bank, where Tel Aviv maintains full control.
The Kan public broadcaster also reported that Israeli officials had passed along to the White House a slightly edited version of Trump’s plan, which closely connects a cluster of at least 15 isolated settlements to the West Bank territory that Netanyahu envisions in his annexation plans.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the United Kingdom wouldn’t recognise any changes to the 1967 borders, except for those agreed upon between the Palestinian and Israeli parties.
In an article published in the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on Wednesday, Johnson called on Israel not to proceed with its illegal plan to annex large swaths of the West Bank.
‘I followed with great sadness the proposals for annexing Palestinian territory,’ he wrote. ‘Annexation would represent a violation of international law.’
‘I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead,’ he said. ‘If it does, the UK will not recognise any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between both parties.’
Johnson called on both sides to return to the negotiation table in order to achieve a lasting peace.
After it was declared that that Israeli parliament would vote on the annexation move on July 1, Netanyahu hinted at the postponement of the implementation of the illegal move.
Netanyahu has declared many times his willingness to annex the illegal colonial settlements beside the Jordan Valley, a fertile strip of land running west along the Jordan River, which is home to some 65,000 Palestinians and makes up approximately 30 per cent of the West Bank, upon the formation of the new coalition government.
The annexation of Palestinian territory occupied in 1967 is illegal under international law, and it would put much of the occupied West Bank under Israeli sovereignty, leaving only a few small pockets of densely populated Palestinian bantustans.
- The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) yesterday expressed its support and appreciation for US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concerning the Israeli annexation plan for parts of Palestine in the West Bank.
‘ADC strongly stands against the illegal Israeli occupation and sees plans for further annexation as a step towards cementing apartheid.
‘We stand with the signatories of Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s letter in asking Secretary Pompeo to take the necessary action needed to reverse Israel’s plan for annexation and call on him to think of the families that will be displaced and the homes that will be demolished as a result,’ said ADC.
The American-Arab organisation said it also strongly endorses action to ‘ensure non-recognition’ of any newly annexed Palestinian territories. In addition, it backed the letter’s promise to ‘pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in US military funding to Israel to ensure that US taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way’.
‘More theft of Palestinian land will have severe human rights implications and foreign policy impacts,’ said ADC. ‘There must be consequences if annexation is carried out as the world can no longer stand by as apartheid is explicitly executed against Palestinians in part using our taxpayer dollars.’
ADC said it stands in solidarity ‘with our Palestinian brothers and sisters both in Palestine and in the diaspora and will continue our fight against injustice and intolerance. We are committed to spreading awareness and educating our public on Palestinian human rights and will continue to put pressure on our legislators to stand not just against annexation, but against the greater apartheid happening to Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli occupation.’