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Palestinians Again Warn Israel Against West Bank Annexation
Israeli soldiers look on as Palestinians demonstrate against the annexation of the Jordan Valley, in the village of Tammun, east of West Bank village of Tubas, on February 29, 2020. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images)

Palestinians Again Warn Israel Against West Bank Annexation

Officials say PA would cancel all agreements if status of Jordan Valley changed

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his main rival, Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz, signed a coalition agreement last week to form a government that includes plans to annex parts of the West Bank, most likely in the Jordan Valley.

The Netanyahu-Gantz deal stipulates that any such Israeli move cannot be raised in the cabinet until at least July 1 and must have US support.

Gantz has said he would oppose annexation unless there was international, Palestinian and Arab world agreement, but a Likud-led government would not need his movement’s lawmakers’ support for such a measure, as it would be backed by opposition parties in the Knesset such as Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party.

The coalition agreement infuriated Palestinian officials; they said any annexation would effectively kill any chance for peace.

Ziad Abu Zayyad, a former Palestinian official, told The Media Line annexation would be “illegal and inconsistent with international laws.” He warned that the future was bleak for Palestinians.

“The next two months are very dangerous because they will decide the fate and shape of the conflict over the next decades. We must set aside all our differences, and keep in mind one single issue, which is the American-Israeli expansion and incursion against us, the liquidation of our cause and our national rights,” he said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was Israel’s decision whether or not to annex parts of the West Bank, and that the US would offer its position on this matter to the new Israeli government in private.

Ibrahim al-Madhoun, a Palestinian analyst who writes for several Palestinian and Arab news outlets, told The Media Line the incoming Israeli government would have the support of the Trump Administration.

“I think that these statements are an American green light for the new Israeli government to complete projects annexing the West Bank and annexing it to the Zionist entity. The Israeli occupation is now looking at the Palestinian Authority as nonexistent and that it has no future,” he said.

Abdul Majeed Swailem, a professor of regional studies at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, called the US response a “crime.”

“This is one of the worst and basest types of statements, and the most dangerous for the Palestinian issue,” he said.

Swailem told The Media Line that the Trump White House had “overlooked the Palestinian right and presence in his land. Pompeo forgot the Palestinian right to sovereignty over this land.”

Palestinian Authority President Abbas said in a speech last Wednesday that Palestinians “will not stand handcuffed if Israel annexes of any part of our land.”

He said his administration would regard agreements with Israel and the US as “completely canceled” if Israel annexed land in the West Bank.

Abbas has threatened to walk out on the Oslo Accord many times over the past several years.

Abu Zayyad stressed the need for the Palestinian leadership to stop making empty threats.

“Not following up on these threats has given the impression to the Israelis that we do not mean what we say and that all these decisions of the National and Central councils are for domestic consumption only.”

The Palestinian National Council is the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Palestinian Central Council, also known as PLO Central Council, makes policy decisions when the Palestinian National Council is not in session.

Palestinians grew angry with President Donald Trump when the US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017. Communication between Ramallah and Washington was suspended, and Palestinian officials have refused to speak to the Americans ever since.

Fatah leader Rafaat Elyan told The Media Line that “not everything Trump and Netanyahu want can be taken by force.”

Elyan said that if Israel went forward with its plans to annex part of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority must immediately cut off all communication with Israel, including security cooperation.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said the possible Israeli move would deal a “devastating blow” to the internationally backed two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The European Union said annexing Palestinian territory “would constitute a serious violation of international law.”

Abu Zayyad expressed appreciation for the international support but said the Palestinians needed actions not words.

“What is required of the countries of the world concerned with peace and stability in the region on the basis of a two-state solution is to take practical measures that affect Israeli interests and compel Israel to refrain from adopting the annexation decision and imposing sovereignty over occupied lands, in accordance with all Security Council resolutions and the official positions of those countries,” he said.

Swailem said the motivation behind the Israeli plan “is economic, aimed at controlling the most important agricultural area in the West Bank, with the aim of besieging and starving the Palestinian people, in order to depopulate the area.”

Madhoun said that if Israel delivered on the Likud’s campaign promise and annexed the Jordan Valley and settlements, “the Palestinian people won’t stand idle.”

“I believe that we are now facing a new stage and I believe that if these moves are implemented, the Palestinian people will not be silent and there will be a wide response by the Palestinian factions and the Palestinian people. Perhaps popular confrontations will erupt,” he said.

The PA is weak to face such projects and its existence “may be at stake,” Madhoun said.

Elyan argued that if Israel annexed land as was expected, there would be major consequences for its relations with the two Arab states that have signed peace agreements with it, Jordan and Egypt.

“Jordan will not stand idly by,” he said. “The government of Jordan, its parliament and his majesty the king will speak out loudly, and it may lead to the cancellation or suspension of the agreement.”

The Palestinians have rejected the US Mideast plan unveiled in January − the so-called “deal of the century” − describing it as biased. It envisions giving the control of parts of the West Bank to a Palestinian state while keeping the rest, including all of Jerusalem, under permanent Israeli control.

Meanwhile, Israel has given permission to Palestinian security forces to enter two towns east of Jerusalem, Abu Dis and Al-Eizariya (Bethany), to keep order during the coronavirus pandemic.

Reports in the Israeli media claim that this is one of the stages of the “deal of the century,” and handing security duty to Palestinian security forces constitutes a “test of their capabilities.”

Abu Zayyad said, “This kind of talk is exaggerated.”

The reports were without merit, and the security deployments were part of what was agreed on in previous accords, he said.

“The Oslo agreements between the PLO and Israel provides for the formation of a Palestinian national security force, to be transferred from one region to another, according to need,” he said.

But if the annexation plans become a reality, the consequences would be catastrophic, Abu Zayyad said.

“The mere submission of an annexation bill to the Knesset should entail a mercy killing of all the agreements signed with Israel. It would spark a huge fire and position the world before an erupting volcano obliterating the illusions of politics and diplomacy,” he said.

“We should expect the worst and be ready to bear the consequences instead of continuing in a game of self-delusion that leads us from bad to worse as we see our land and our dream snatched from under our feet.” Abu Zayyad said.

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