JERUSALEM - As the July 1 date for Israel’s annexation of part of the West Bank approaches, international officials warn that the move would be a violation of international law. The head of the Arab League said that if Israel goes ahead it could spark a religious war, and Hamas in Gaza said the annexation would be a declaration of war.
Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, U.N. Special Envoy to the Middle East Nikolay Mladenov spoke out strongly against the planned Israeli annexation of part of the West Bank.
“It is our assessment that this move is not only against international law but will seriously upend the relationship between the state of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and between Israelis and Palestinians in general. We are now in the midst of a global pandemic, we are in the beginning of a global economic recession, we live through times in which national identities, perhaps more than in the past, have become a driving force in politics around the world, and we are very concerned that any such moves will have economic and security repercussions on the ground and will affect the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.”
The Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, proposed in January, allows Israel to annex up to 30 percent of the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it is a rare opportunity for Israel and he plans to annex at least some of the 130 Jewish settlements located there.
Palestinians have threatened they could respond with violence, a threat the U.N. special envoy hopes they will not fulfill.
“I hope it will not be violence. I attended an event in Jericho a couple of days ago at which I specifically made that point I think, I hope quite clearly, to the Palestinians in attendance, that whatever reaction people have to this event, this potential event, they should not be violent and should not stray away from the path of peace.”
The Palestinian Authority has already cut ties with Israel to protest the planned annexation of the area, which Palestinians say must be part of a future Palestinian state. Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, are already suffering. An eight-month-old baby from Gaza, who was supposed to have heart surgery in Israel, died last week after the Palestinian Authority refused to coordinate with Israel.
The Islamist Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, said that the planned annexation would be considered a declaration of war. Hamas warned that Israel would regret its move.
There were also harsh words from the secretary-general of the Arab League, who said the annexation would increase tensions and could even ignite a religious war in the Middle East.
Israeli press reports say that Netanyahu may limit the planned annexation, for example, by not including the Jordan Valley, a large piece of land that runs along the border between the West Bank and Jordan. The Jordan Valley makes up about 25 percent of the West Bank.