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Wednesday, June 24, 2020, 22:05
Lawmakers in Europe call on Israel to ditch annexation plans
By Reuters
Wednesday, June 24, 2020, 22:05 By Reuters

In this June 19, 2020 photo, Palestinians cross a bridge at Qalandia checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem. (ODED BALILTY / AP)

BRUSSELS/LONDON - Any Israeli move to annex parts of the West Bank would be “fatal” for Middle East peace hopes and must be prevented, if necessary with countermeasures, more than 1,000 lawmakers from across Europe said in a letter to European governments.

The June 23 letter, signed by 1,080 lawmakers from 25 countries and made public on Wednesday, raises parliamentary concerns about US President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. The signatories said annexation would break international law.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set July 1 as the date for the start of cabinet discussions on moving forward on annexation, in line with Trump’s plan that envisages Israeli sovereignty over 30 percent of the West Bank and Palestinian statehood under strict conditions.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014 and the Palestinians see annexations as an illegal land grab

“Such a move (annexation) will be fatal to the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace and will challenge the most basic norms guiding international relations,” the letter said.

“Acquisition of territory by force has no place in 2020,” said the lawmakers, who included members of parliament from Hungary and the Czech Republic, two countries sympathetic to Israel and to Trump’s Jan 28 peace plan.

ALSO READ: Netanyahu announces 3,000 new East Jerusalem settler homes

The plan offers US recognition of Israel’s settlements dotted across the West Bank, and Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley — land captured in the 1967 Middle East war and claimed by Palestinians for a future state.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014 and the Palestinians see annexations as an illegal land grab.

The United Nations Security Council has said settlements violate international law. Israel disputes this, citing biblical, historical and political connections to the land.

The European lawmakers called for “commensurate consequences” if Israel, which has more than 400,000 settlers in the West Bank, went ahead with annexation — a reference to possible economic, trade or other sanctions.

“Failure to adequately respond would encourage other states with territorial claims,” the letter said.

Netanyahu has dismissed criticism of the annexation plans. He says that extending Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements in the West Bank will bring peace closer once critics of the move recognise that hundreds of thousands of settlers in the area will remain under any future deal.

READ MORE: Palestinians push UN action over US peace plan

Internal documents and Reuters interviews with more than two dozen diplomats and officials showed there is no clear EU strategy on how to stop Israel’s plan or how to respond in a meaningful way if annexation goes ahead.

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