Israel’s goal of annexing parts of the occupied West Bank is clearly “illegal”, said the UN human rights chief on Monday, warning that the consequences could be “disastrous”.
A few days before Israel intended to start plans to annex its West Bank settlements and parts of the strategic Jordan Valley, Michelle Bachelet added her voice to the chorus urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give up on the proposal.
“The annexation is illegal. Period,” said the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in a statement. “Any annexation. Whether it’s 30 percent of the West Bank, or 5 percent,”
The international condemnation of possible Israeli annexations rose before July 1st, when Israel could have taken the first steps towards implementing a plan for the Middle East proposed by the United States.
But Defense Minister and alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz said Monday that any annexation of the West Bank territory should be put on hold until the coronavirus crisis has been contained.
“Anything unrelated to the battle against coronavirus will wait until after the virus,” he said on Monday at a televised meeting with members of his Blue and White party.
His office later made it clear that he was specifically referring to the annexation plan.
The Jerusalem Post, meanwhile, has cited multiple U.S. sources with knowledge of the matter by saying that Israel will not continue its plans this week, as those plans did not been finalized.
American President Donald Trump’s proposals, openly rejected by the Palestinians, pave the way for the annexation of key parts of the occupied West Bank, including settlements long considered illegal by the majority of the international community.
Bachelet urged Israel to change course, warning that “the shock waves of the annexation will last for decades and will be extremely harmful to Israel and the Palestinians”.
“It is not possible to predict the precise consequences of the annexation,” he said.
“But they are probably disastrous for the Palestinians, for Israel itself and for the region in general.”
The head of UN rights warned that “any attempt to annex any part of occupied Palestinian territory will not only seriously undermine efforts to achieve lasting peace in the region, it is likely to entrench, perpetuate and further intensify serious human rights violations. that have characterized the conflict for decades. “
His statement warned that such a move would almost certainly lead to greater restrictions on the rights of Palestinians to freedom of movement, as their population centers would become enclaves.
Furthermore, significant tracts of private land would probably be expropriated illegally and, even in cases where this does not happen, many Palestinians could lose access to cultivate their lands.
And Palestinians who have found themselves living in the annexed areas would likely have greater difficulty accessing essential services such as health care and education, while humanitarian access could also be blocked.
“Highly combustible mixture”
Bachelet’s office warned that Palestinians within the annexed area would be under severe pressure to leave, stressing that entire communities currently not recognized under Israeli planning would be at high risk of “forced transfer”.
And the settlements, which are already recognized as a clear violation of international law, would almost certainly expand.
“This is a highly combustible mix,” said Bachelet.
“I am deeply concerned that even the most minimalist form of annexation will lead to an increase in violence and loss of life, with the erection of walls, the deployment of security forces and the two populations brought together.”
United Nations envoy says Israel must “abandon threats of annexation”
The UN chief of rights warned that “the current two-tier law system in the same territory will be incorporated, with devastating impacts on the lives of Palestinians who have little or no access to the legal remedy.”
Bachelet said that the illegal annexation would not change Israel’s obligations under international law as an occupying power towards the occupied population.
“Instead, it will seriously damage the prospect of a two-state solution, undermining the chances of renewed negotiations and perpetuating the existing serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law we are witnessing today.