Major European nations flay Netanyahu’s annexation plan - GulfToday

Major European nations flay Netanyahu’s annexation plan


A Palestinian paramedic helps a boy injured during clashes with Israeli forces in Gaza Strip on Friday. Agence France-Presse

Five major European countries said an Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank would “constitute a serious breach of international law.” France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain issued a joint statement late on Thursday saying they are “deeply concerned about the announcement of a possible annexation of areas in the West Bank, particularly the Jordan Valley and the northern shore of the Dead Sea.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently vowed to annex the heart of the West Bank if he wins re-election.

The five European countries urge Israel and the Palestinians to avoid taking steps that “would imperil the viability of a two-state solution” and make it harder to achieve peace.

Iraq on Friday “categorically rejected” Netanyahu’s pledge to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank if he wins the next election.

A statement by Iraqi Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Ahmed Al Sahaf said that his country’s rejection of Netanyahu’s intention to annex Jordan Valley and the north of Dead Sea has prompted a wave of outrage in the Arab, Islamic and international areas.

Iraq treats Netanyahu’s announcement as an “aggressive electoral propaganda and programmed racist settlement policy, based on the deprivation of the rights of the Palestinian people,” Sahaf was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

“It is a very dangerous occupation step towards Palestine, which comes to fuel the conflict in the whole region,” Sahaf said, adding that such announcement has to be encountered with an Arab and international reaction.

Iraq also confirmed that it is important “to provide international protection to the Palestinian people and the Palestinian territories and to exert a genuine, practical and responsible effort at all levels to address the actions of the Zionist entity (Israel), which deliberately violates international law.”

Meanwhile, it was reported that Palestinians in the West Bank are unable to vote in Israeli elections next week and many expect little change.

Barhoum Saleh’s town is surrounded by Jewish settlements, the sign above his roadside mechanic shop is in Hebrew, most of his customers are Israeli and he needs an Israeli permit to visit the beach a half hour’s drive away.

But unlike his Jewish neighbours, he can’t vote in next week’s elections.

Saleh is among the 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank who have no voice in choosing Israel’s next government and no control over whether it decides to annex part or all of the occupied territory, as Netanyahu has vowed to do. With the peace process having sputtered to a halt a decade ago, they also have little hope of getting a state of their own anytime soon.

Saleh, who is not particularly political, just wishes it was easier to take his kids to the beach.

Israelis who get their cars serviced at his shop describe their trips: one drove down to Egypt’s Sinai, another vacationed in Thailand. But while they can travel in and out of the West Bank freely, Saleh must apply for a permit to enter Israel - and they are not given for family vacations. So, a few years back, he took his family to neighbouring Jordan and its Red Sea port of Aqaba, several hours away.

“My kids were astonished when they saw the sea,” he recalls, smiling at the memory. “They said, what’s that?”

The movement restrictions apply to all Palestinians in the West Bank, even those, like Saleh, who live near major settlement blocs that Israel expects to keep in any peace agreement. His shop is just down the road from Elkana, the settlement where Netanyahu kicked off his campaign by vowing to annex parts of the West Bank.

Maraei Maraei runs a hardware store in the West Bank village of Mas’ha, which is separated from the Elkana settlement by a wall and a closed metal gate. Elkana’s settlers can vote, while residents of Mas’ha cannot. Still, he shrugs off the talk of annexation.

“It would be hard for them to annex this area because there are too many of us,” he said. “They want land without people.”


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