No to Apartheid, no to Annexation
Despite a delay in the long-anticipated declaration of an Israeli plan to annex one-third of the already illegally occupied West Bank, Palestinians decried the plan with some holding protests in Ramallah and Gaza City. Carrying posters and waving Palestinian flags, the crowds chanted anti-occupation slogans such as "Down, down with the occupation", and "We will resist until full liberation. We will not leave."
While Israel's alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz said last week that annexation should wait until the coronavirus crisis is over, Netanyahu might still go ahead with it. But Israeli military and intelligence officials have warned the move could cause an uprising in the West Bank, which would be a grave security risk for Israel.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is viewed as occupied territory under international law, thus making all Jewish settlements there - as well as the planned annexation - illegal. The annexation plan would push Palestinians further under a state of occupation and military rule. The plan has been met with condemnation by the Palestinian public, their leaders and the global community alike.
"The annexation plan is another Nakba [catastrophe] and Naksa [day of setback]," said Zeina Mustafa, a 20-year-old student from Ramallah, referring to the 1948 Palestinian exodus that saw more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs expelled from their homes and an Israeli state declared, and the 1967 Six-Day War after that saw Israel take control of the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh warned if Israel goes ahead with the plan, Palestinians would unilaterally declare a state along the pre-1967 borders.
“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.” Said Amnesty International. “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 under international law and its inhabitants 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.
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. “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.
In an editorial in Israel's largest selling newspaper on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for any annexation plans to be scrapped. “I am fearful that these proposals will fail in their objective of securing Israel's borders and will be contrary to Israel's own long-term interests," "Annexation would represent a violation of international law," "I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead. If it does, the UK will not recognise any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between both parties."
France's foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told the French parliament "an annexation decision could not be left without consequences". He said Paris was "examining different options at a national level and also in coordination with our main European partners".
The German parliament has called on Israel not to go ahead with the annexation of parts of the West Bank, describing the move as being "in contradiction with international law". Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the Israeli plan threatened the stability of the entire Middle East. "Peace cannot be achieved by unilateral steps," he said.
In a rare criticism of Israel, Australia warned against "unilateral annexation or change in status of territory on the West Bank".
The Vatican, in a highly unusual move, summoned both the U.S. and Israeli ambassadors to express the Holy See’s concern about Israel’s moves to extend its sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. The Vatican’s top diplomat, expressed “the concern of the Holy See regarding possible unilateral actions that may further jeopardize the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the delicate situation in the Middle East”.
The United Nations has stated on many occasions that the 53-year-old Israeli occupation is the source of profound human rights violations against the Palestinian people. These violations include land confiscation, settler violence, discriminatory planning laws, the confiscation of natural resources, home demolitions, forcible population transfer, excessive use of force and torture, labour exploitation, extensive infringements of privacy rights, restrictions on the media and freedom of expression, the targeting of women activists and journalists, the detention of children, poisoning by exposure to toxic wastes, forced evictions and displacement, economic deprivation and extreme poverty, arbitrary detention, lack of freedom of movement, food insecurity, discriminatory law enforcement and the imposition of a two-tier system of disparate political, legal, social, cultural and economic rights based on ethnicity and nationality. Above all, the Israeli occupation has meant the denial of the right of Palestinian self-determination. These human rights violations would only intensify after annexation.
According to UN experts, accountability and an end to impunity must become an immediate priority for the international community.