After Netanyahu Annexation Vow, Palestinian Authority Threatens to Exit Agreements with Israel
Abbas calls Netanyahu’s campaign promise a violation of international law
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge on Tuesday, that if he wins next week’s election, he will annex the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area in the West Bank, received a swift response from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who threatened to pull out of all signed agreements with Israel if Netanyahu follows through on his campaign promise.
Abbas said, in a statement carried by WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, that Netanyahu’s declaration “contradicted decisions of international legitimacy and international law.”
Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem told The Media Line: “This is a serious escalation and it is intended to solicit and win votes ahead of the election. He [Netanyahu] is afraid of failure in the election and wants to lure voters with promises he cannot deliver on.”
Melhem added that the prime minister would not have taken such a step without receiving a green light from the White House.
“This Israeli policy and attitude are nurtured and supported by the US administration and President Donald Trump,” the spokesman said.
The US leader’s long-awaited peace plan is expected to be unveiled sometime after the Israeli vote on September 17.
Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo condemned Netanyahu’s plan, describing it as “an aggression” that ruled out any chance of peace with the Palestinians.
“The Israeli prime minister’s speech and his intention to annex the Jordan Valley and place some settlements under Israel’s sovereignty violate UN Security Council Resolutions numbers 242 and 338 and will undermine any possibility for the peace process in the Middle East to succeed,” the ministers said.
Hani Almasri, director-general of Masarat, the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies, told The Media Line that Netanyahu’s announcement was motivated by political considerations.
“Netanyahu’s aim is to garner additional votes… especially after opinion polls have shown that the left-wing party Blue and White is ahead of the Likud party by a few percentage points,” Almasri noted.
Political analyst Talal Okal of the Institute for Palestinian Studies told The Media Line that decisions like this could effectively kill any remaining chance for a two-state solution. He qualified, however, that “the PA doesn’t have the ability to completely end the relationship with Israel, since it hasn’t invested in any sector to prepare for such time. The government has been suffering from a fiscal crisis since February. How could it end everything with Israel?”
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, took to Twitter to criticize Netanyahu and accuse him of “not only destroying the two-state solution,” but “destroying all chances for peace.”
Netanyahu was “pandering to his extremist racist base,” and his declaration “exposes his real political agenda of imposing a Greater Israel [on the Palestinians],” Ashrawi said.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said such an annexation would be “manifestly illegal.” He called on the international community to act.
Indeed, condemnations were issued from most Middle Eastern capitals. Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned the move would “push the whole region toward violence” and risked “killing off the entire peace process.” In Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu slammed Netanyahu’s pledge as “racist.”
Saudi Arabia condemned it as a “dangerous escalation against the Palestinian people” and called for an emergency meeting of foreign ministers from the 57 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which will be convened on Sunday.
Israeli right-wing and centrist politicians have long viewed the strategic Jordan Valley as territory Israel would never withdraw from, seeing it as the country’s eastern security border.
Almost all Jewish communities over the pre-1967 borders are located in what is known as Area C, which is under full Israeli civilian and military control and accounts for some 60 percent of the entire West Bank.