JERUSALEM - Palestinian officials are stepping up pressure on Israel to cancel its planned annexation of part of the West Bank next month, saying that if Israel proceeds, they will immediately declare a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Leaders say they have given up on the peace process with Israel, and will now seek international recognition.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Stayyeh said Israel will be making a mistake if it proceeds with plans to annex the Jordan Valley and lands along the northern Dead Sea in the West Bank. The Jordan Valley, he said, which runs along the eastern border of the West Bank along the border with Jordan, is crucial for a future Palestinian state.
"This is the vegetable basket for Palestine. The Jordan Valley is 1622 square kilometers. The Jordan valley makes 28 percent of the west bank. The Jordan Valley is our border with Jordan, and so this annexation for us it is seriously an existential threat (tahdid wujd)," he said.
According to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan, Israel can annex 30 percent of the West Bank including all of the Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley. Dr. Stayyeh said carrying that out would mean the end of any kind of viable Palestinian state and he said that would have consequences.
"We are waiting and pushing for Israel not to annex. If Israel is going to annex after July 1, we are going to go from the interim period of the Palestinian Authority into a manifestation of a state on the ground. That is where we will be heading in the next phase," he said.
He described what that next phase would look like to create a Palestinian state in the pre 1967 borders, meaning a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.
"It means there will be a founding council, there will be a constitutional declaration, and Palestine will be on the borders of 67 with Jerusalem as its capital and we will call on the international community to recognize this fact. That is where we are and as it has been said, I think the world and us we have to face the moment of truth," said Dr. Stayyeh.
Shtayyeh’s proposed state faces several obstacles. The Gaza Strip is controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement, a long-time rival to Shtayyeh’s Fatah movement. East Jerusalem has been annexed by Israel and the U.S. has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved its embassy there.
Last month, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he would end security cooperation with Israel. That move has raised concerns that Palestinians could attack Israeli soldiers and civilians if the annexation goes ahead as scheduled on July 1.