Plans by Israel to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank look set to trigger a spat between the US and EU, with Washington regarding the action as an “Israeli decision” while Brussels mulls possible sanctions.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared Tuesday that all deals made with the US and Israel, “including the security ones,” were now called off.
It was a move Abbas had been threatening for weeks following the unveiling of annexation plans in US President Donald Trump’s controversial ‘Deal of the Century’ and “vision for peace” which was quickly rejected by Palestinians for being too pro-Israel.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US regrets Abbas’ statement and that he hoped security cooperation will continue between the Israelis and Palestinians. Pompeo said the Palestinian leadership should “see that it is in the interest of their people” to continue to coordinate on security.
A different tone was struck in Europe, however, where French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said partial annexation of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley by Israel would be considered a “serious violation” by Paris.
Le Drian said France was working with its European partners to come up with a plan for “joint preventive action and eventually a reprisal” should Israel decide to move ahead with annexations. “Several video conferences” had been held to discuss the issue in recent days, he said.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said last week that Brussels would work to “discourage any possible initiative toward annexation” — but that approach seems to be entirely at odds with Washington’s view, which is that the decision is “ultimately” to be made by Israel.
Turkey also condemned Netanyahu’s plans on Wednesday, with a spokesperson for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling them an “extension of its occupation policy” which “ignores international law.”
Ankara supports any measures to stop the“further theft” of Palestinian land, the spokesperson said on Twitter.
King Abdullah II of Jordan also warned last week that Israeli annexations could create a “massive conflict” with his country.
In his statement on Tuesday, Abbas said that Washington was acting as a “key partner” to Israel and that the Trump administration would bear “full responsibility” for the “occupation of the Palestinian people.”
Israel’s Channel 13 reported this week that Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer has been lobbying the Trump administration for weeks to get support for the annexation of disputed territories, insisting that it must be advanced “now” because there is a chance Democratic candidate Joe Biden could win the presidential election and the “window of opportunity” could close.
The Trump administration has taken numerous pro-Israel steps since Trump took office in 2017, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US Embassy there, as well as recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Syria’s Golan Heights, annexed in 1981.
Netanyahu has confirmed the cabinet discussions on annexations will begin in July. Netanyahu agreed on the issue of annexations with former political rival, centrist Benny Gantz as part of a power-sharing deal that saw the pair form a national unity government this week.
The EU has not taken solid action against Israel following past annexations, despite voicing threats and concerns. Whether Brussels will actually follow through on the threats this time — or if they prove to be empty rhetoric — remains to be seen.
The 21st Century
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