Force Israel to abandon annexation plans
The clock is ticking and the world community has a very important task at hand. Israel should be forced to scrap its dangerous plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, before it is too late. Any such unilateral action by the occupation forces would represent a serious violation of international law and deal a devastating blow to international peace efforts and the two-State solution. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has rightly stated that ‘We are at a watershed moment.’ The Israeli government should heed his advice and abandon its annexation plans immediately. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had unabashedly made annexation a major pledge during campaigning, ahead of the latest round of national elections held in March. The blind support being extended by Washington to Israel has encouraged the occupation forces to move in a direction that hardly brings peace but only adds to tension and injustice in the region. Israel’s proposal would see sovereignty extended to roughly 30 per cent of the West Bank, covering most of the Jordan Valley and hundreds of illegal Israeli settlements. Palestinian anger over such moves is justified and it is not surprising that Palestinian leaders have cut off ties with Israel and the United States, which has backed the plan. The situation is so grim that the UN envoy for the Middle East, Nikolay Mladenov, has warned the UN Security Council that three decades of international peace efforts could be at stake. Israel has been flouting all norms and repeatedly snubbing the world community. US President Donald Trump’s plan unambiguously favours Israel and has rightly been rejected by the Palestinians. It is biased in favour of Israel as it would allow the occupation forces to annex all settlements as well as the strategic Jordan Valley. It would give the Palestinians limited autonomy in several chunks of territory with a capital on the outskirts of occupied Jerusalem, and that too only if they meet nearly impossible conditions.
The Palestinian Authority has already stopped accepting taxes Israel collects on its behalf. As Mladenov points out, the resulting 80 per cent drop in monthly revenue has added to economic fragility caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, amid reduced donor support to UNRWA, the UN agency that assists Palestinians. The head of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, has also rightly cautioned that Israel’s annexation of parts of the West Bank would inflame tensions and endanger peace in the Middle East. The annexation will have broader ramifications on the international security around the world. It is sad that instead of joining the global community in the war against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has been mercilessly claiming lives across the world, Israel is busy planning nefarious activities. Israel is taking advantage of the global preoccupation with confronting the coronavirus pandemic to impose a new reality on the ground. Under international law, settlements in all the Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem, are illegal. The fact remains that attempts by the Israeli government to impose sovereignty on parts of the occupied West Bank are unacceptable to the world community. European Union countries too should exert pressure on Israel to cancel its despicable plans. The annexation plan can only be seen as an act of aggression. Such a move could trigger instability across the occupied Palestinian territory and even beyond.