If Israel annexes part of the West Bank on July 1, the Palestinian Authority will declare a Palestinian state based on the armistice lines from before the 1967 Six Day War and call on the international community to recognize it, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh warned on Tuesday.
Speaking to members of the foreign press from the prime minister’s office in Ramallah, he also said that he would expect the international front to impose sanctions on Israel if such a move was made.
“We are facing the moment of truth: nowhere on earth can we live with this annexation,” he threatened. “If Israel goes to annexation, it is a different day for us... Annexation is an existential threat to our future.”
There are four pillars of a Palestinian state: Gaza, Jerusalem, Areas A, B and C of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, Shtayyeh said. Therefore, “annexation is the erosion of a future Palestinian state,” he said, “and the world has to choose between international law and annexation. I am sure the international community will choose international law.”
He described annexation as having a number of dimensions, and efforts to combat the move as broken down into two phases.
The first dimension of annexation was taken on April 20, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz signed an agreement that states the country has a right to annex West Bank land. The agreement was based on support by the United States and its “Deal of the Century” peace plan, which US President Donald Trump rolled out at the end of January and allows for Israel to annex some 30% of the West Bank.
“When they were sworn into the Knesset, they announced they were going to annex, and at the first cabinet meeting they announced they were going to annex the Jordan Valley, specifically,” he recalled.
Shtayyeh claimed that already some small steps have been taken on the ground by Israelis in the Jordan Valley to prepare for annexation: Israel started sending utility bills to residents in Arab villages in the Jordan Valley. In addition, the signage that used to indicate “Beyond this point is Palestinian” has been removed.
The Jerusalem Post spoke to Palestinians in the Jordan Valley who said that they have not seen any real change on the ground and denied that signs have been removed or replaced.
Israel has been providing water and electricity to all Jewish and Arab residents of the Jordan Valley for decades. Generally, the bills are sent directly to the PA, which then distributes them to the people. Last month, due to a delay by the PA, the Civil Administration distributed the bills.
The next dimension is expected to take place on July 1, when Israel said it will start the legislative process of annexation in the cabinet and possibly the Knesset.
“In Israel, the debate used to be between the peace and occupation camps,” he said. “Then it moved to the status quo and the annexation camp. And now the debate is not between those who want to annex and not, the debate is now what to annex.”
He said the Blue and White Party wants to annex the larger settlement blocs and Netanyahu wants to annex the Jordan Valley.
“It has never been agreed by anyone that settlements are here to stay,” Shtayyeh made clear, noting that even if Israel chose only to annex those parts it assumes would be part of future land swaps, the PA would see it no differently. “All Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory are illegitimate and illegal,” he said.
A third and final stage of annexation would be implementation.
However, he said that the Palestinians are hoping that Israel does not take it so far and are therefore operating in two phases.
“Our immediate target is not to allow Israel to annex,” he stressed. “This is our immediate target – between today and July 1 all our efforts are focused on this point.”
Earlier this week, Shtayyeh held a phone conversation with European Union President Charles Michel, during which he stressed the importance of the EU taking “serious and practical” steps to confront Israel’s annexation plans.
Last weekend, he hosted Norway’s special envoy for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, in his office to discuss the topic, as well. He asked Wennesland if he could rally the international community to step up its effort to prevent Israel from carrying out its plan.
On Wednesday, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to discuss annexation with his Israeli counterpart in Jerusalem. Israel has recommended Maas not visit Ramallah, citing coronavirus. Israel told the official that he would be required to quarantine for 14 days upon reentry to Israel on the way to Ben-Gurion Airport. As such, he will meet with Palestinian officials via video conference instead.
Shtayyeh accused Israel of using coronavirus as “an excuse.”
“We know the history of German-Jewish relations,” he told the press. “But this should not come at the expense of international law. It should not come at the expense of Palestinian rights.”
“Germany is against annexation and for international law – and that is the message I think he is bringing to the Israelis,” he continued. “If Israel has any ears to listen, they know the international community is opposing this.”
Shtayyeh stressed that Israel’s annexation is based on maps provided by the Trump administration and that those maps “endanger the whole future of the peace process.”
He also noted that the Palestinian Authority was asked to submit a counter-proposal and that a few days ago it turned in a four-and-a-half-page document to the Quartet on the Middle East, which comprises the United Nations, United States, EU and Russia, which he said has not yet been made public. He said that the plan describes the creation of a “sovereign Palestinian state, independent and demilitarized.”
Shtayyeh said that “minor modifications of borders” could be implemented where necessary.
“If you ask Palestinians, ‘What do you want?’ Some will tell you two states, some will tell you one,” Shtayyeh concluded. “Maybe... there are different points of view. But there is no difference on point of view when it comes to one single thing: end of occupation. That is what the people want.”
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
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