The European Union (EU) has indicated that it will try to stop Israel’s proposed annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank.
Speaking after a virtual meeting of EU Foreign Ministers on Friday, foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “We must work to discourage any possible initiative toward annexation,” the BBC reported
He said the EU looked forward to working with Israel’s new government, but added: “Unilateral action from either side should be avoided and for sure international law should be upheld.”
Some EU states were said to be calling for a tougher line on the issue, including possible sanctions, but others have urged caution.
“What everybody agreed is we have to increase our efforts and our reach-out to all relevant actors in the Middle East,” Borrell said.
The EU foreign ministers reaffirmed their support for a two-state solution and opposition to any annexation. The ministers, whose countries are deeply divided in their approach to Israel, agreed to ramp up diplomatic efforts in the coming days with Israel, the Palestinians, the US and Arab countries.
“We reaffirm our position in support of a negotiated, two-state solution. For this to be possible, unilateral action from either side should be avoided and, for sure, international law should be upheld,” said Mr Borrell after chairing the meeting.
“We must work to discourage any possible initiative toward annexation,” Borrell told reporters in Brussels. “International law has to be upheld. Here, and there, and everywhere.”
Unveiled in January, the controversial plan gives a green light for Israel to annex about a third of the occupied West Bank, leaving the Palestinians with heavily conditioned statehood in scattered territorial enclaves surrounded by Israel.
The bloc has long been committed to a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines, with the possibility of mutually agreed land-swaps. Israel seized East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want all three to form their future state.
“In our opinion, an annexation is not compatible with international law,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Friday. “From our point of view, changes to borders must, if at all, be the result of negotiations and happen in agreement between both sides.”
Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed an agreement with Benny Gantz, the leader of Blue and White Party, to form a unity government.
They both agreed to impose Israeli sovereignty on the territories, which they called as “part of the historic lands of Israel” as of July 1.
On May 7, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that American President Donald Trump’s administration supports Israel’s application of sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians – who claim all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – have rejected the idea. Israel has occupied the territories since the 1967 Middle East war, said the BBC reported. More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Most of the international community considers the settlements illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Jordan Warns Israel
Jordan’s king warned Israel of a “massive conflict” if it proceeds with plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, Al Jazeera reported.
King Abdulla II, in an interview published by Der Spiegel, issued a stark warning over Israel’s plans.
“Leaders who advocate a one-state solution do not understand what that would mean,” he said.
“What would happen if the Palestinian National Authority collapsed? There would be more chaos and extremism in the region. If Israel really annexed the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” he said.
Jordan is a close Western ally and one of only two Arab states to have signed a peace treaty with Israel. Abdullah declined to say whether annexation would threaten that agreement.
“I don’t want to make threats and create an atmosphere of loggerheads, but we are considering all options. We agree with many countries in Europe and the international community that the law of strength should not apply in the Middle East,” he said.
Khaled Elgindy, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, said Israel’s annexation plans could pose a threat to the Jordanian monarchy.
“When the king himself comes out and essentially puts his relationship with Israel and the treaty with Israel on the line, its very serious,” he told Al Jazeera from Arlington in the United States.
“For the monarchy in Jordan, an end to the two state solution – which this plan and annexation is really aimed at achieving – an end of any prospect of a Palestinian state poses not just a strategic threat, but quite possibly even an existential threat to the monarchy in Jordan.”
In a statement, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi “stressed the need for the international community and the European Union in particular to take practical steps that reflect the rejection of any Israeli decision to annex”.