Erakat says Israeli vision on annexation is war crime - GulfToday

Erakat says Israeli vision on annexation is war crime


A Palestinian child plays with a toy gun in Rafah, Gaza, on Saturday. Agence France-Presse

The US ambassador to Israel did not rule out an Israeli move to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, land that the Palestinians seek for a state, in an interview with the New York Times published on Saturday.

The New York Times said that US Ambassador David Friedman had declined to say how Washington would respond to annexation, but remarked: “We really don’t have a view until we understand how much, on what terms, why does it make sense, why is it good for Israel, why is it good for the region, why does it not create more problems than it solves.” “These are all things that we’d want to understand, and I don’t want to prejudge,” Friedman said.

Friedman said that, under certain circumstances, “Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.” Responding to Friedman’s interview, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat tweeted: “Their vision is about annexation of occupied territory, a war crime under international law.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in the run-up to an April election that he plans to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a move bound to trigger widespread international condemnation and complicate peace efforts.

The White House has been working on a proposal for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, dubbed by President Donald Trump as “the deal of the century,” but has not disclosed any of its details.

Most countries view Israeli settlements in the West Bank, territory captured in the 1967 war, as illegal.

Israel disputes this, citing historical, political and religious ties as well as security needs.

It was unclear which West Bank territories Friedman meant and whether Israel’s retention would be part of a peace accord that includes land swaps - an idea floated in past negotiations - rather than a unilateral move such as annexation.

The Trump plan had been expected to be unveiled during an economic conference in Bahrain this month. But a snap election in Israel set for Sept. 17 is likely to delay the roll-out.

The Palestinian leadership has refused to deal with the Trump administration since it recognised occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinians want the eastern part of the city, captured by Israel in the 1967 war and annexed in a move unrecognised abroad, as their future capital.

In March, Trump recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory that Israel captured from Syria in the same war and later annexed.

Netanyahu told Army Radio in April that Trump’s Golan step showed it was possible to annex West Bank settlements “within a gradual process and I prefer to do so with American recognition.” He added: “I have been discussing the question of extending sovereignty with the Americans for the past six months.” A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “No plan for unilateral annexation by Israel of any portion of the West Bank has been presented by Israel to the US, nor is it under discussion.” Recently, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has suggested in an interview that the Palestinians are not ready to govern themselves ahead of the expected release of his peace plan.

Speaking to US news site Axios, Kushner also said he was not concerned over whether the Palestinians do not trust him since they will base their decisions on whether the plan will improve their lives.

“The hope is, is that over time, they can become capable of governing,” Kushner said when asked if he believes the Palestinians can govern themselves without Israeli interference.

According to excerpts from the interview on the Axios website, Kushner said the Palestinians “need to have a fair judicial system, freedom of press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions” before the Palestinian territories can become “investable.” Kushner told Axios that the Palestinians “should have self-determination,” without saying whether that would mean an independent state or some lesser form of autonomy.

He has previously hinted that the plan will not endorse creating a Palestinian state.

In the Axios interview, Kushner said “I think that it’s a high bar” when asked if the Palestinians could expect freedom from any Israeli governmental or military interference.” “If you don’t have a proper government structure and proper security when people are living in fear of terror, that hurts Palestinians,” he said.


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