Palestinians denounce Israeli premier’s annexation pledge - GulfToday

Palestinians denounce Israeli premier’s annexation pledge

Palestinian-Guterres

UN chief Antonio Guterres speaks to students during his visit to the Al Baqaa Palestinian refugee camp near Amman, Jordan, on Saturday. Reuters

DEAD SEA:Israel’s leader will face a “real problem” if he follows through with his election campaign promise to annex Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said on Sunday.

Riad Malki told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Jordan that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge was likely aimed at rallying his nationalist base in the final stretch of a tight race.

He added that Palestinians would “resist” such a policy if carried out.

“If Netanyahu wants to declare Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, then you know he has to face a real problem, the presence of 4.5 million Palestinians, what to do with them,” Malki said, apparently referring to the combined Palestinian population of the occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

He said Israel cannot expel the Palestinians. “We will stay there,” he said. “The international community has to deal with us.”

Malki accused the US of encouraging Netanyahu by recognising occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and, more recently, recognising Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights.

The Palestinians say the US government’s pro-Israel bias meant it could no longer lead peace negotiations between them and Israel, while US officials argue their plan will be fair.

Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when a drive for a deal by Barack Obama’s administration collapsed.

In a prime-time interview on Saturday, Netanyahu was asked why he hadn’t annexed some of the larger Jewish settlements in the West Bank during his current term.

“The question you are asking is an interesting question, whether we will move to the next stage and the answer is yes,” he said. “We will move to the next stage, the imposing of Israeli sovereignty.”

Palestinian leaders reacted angrily, blaming what they said was a failure by world powers to stand up for international law.

Netanyahu has promoted Jewish settlement expansion in his four terms as prime minister, but until now refrained from presenting a detailed vision for the West Bank, viewed by Palestinians as the heartland of a future state.

It would mark a dramatic shift for Netanyahu, ahead of Tuesday’s balloting. Annexing settlements would all but end any chance of a two-state solution with the Palestinians and potentially push the sides toward a single, binational state.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also expressed concerns about America’s “illegitimate decisions” in the region. “We see the solution in dialogue between countries, because unilateral actions will never lead to anything good,” he said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu slammed Netanyahu’s annexation pledge as an “irresponsible statement to seek votes.”

Cavusoglu said on Twitter that the West Bank is Palestinian territory, adding: “the Israeli general elections cannot and will not change this fact.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s irresponsible statement to seek votes just before the Israeli general elections cannot and will not change this fact,” Cavusoglu tweeted.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman echoed those charges on Sunday. “Will Western democracies react or will they keep appeasing? Shame on them all!” Ibrahim Kalin tweeted.

Erdogan, an ardent defender of the Palestinian cause, and Netanyahu frequently exchange barbs, notably during election campaigns.

Last month, Erdogan called the Israeli leader a “tyrant” after Netanyahu called him a “dictator” and a “joke.”

The Palestinians and many countries deem settlements to be illegal under the Geneva conventions that bar settling on land captured in war. Israel disputes this, citing security needs and biblical, historical and political connections to the land.

Erdogan, whose Islamist-rooted AK Party has led Turkey for 16 years, has criticised the administration of US President Donald Trump over its pronounced support for Israel, including Washington’s decision to move its Israel embassy to occupied Jerusalem.

More than 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements as part of Israel’s military occupation of the territory, where more than 2.5 million Palestinians live. A further 200,000 Israelis live in settlements in occupied east Jerusalem, over which Israel has already implemented full sovereignty.

Agencies