UK calls for dialogue over Israeli annexation plan

Israeli Defence Minister and alternate prime minister Benny Gantz wears a protective mask as he attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the foreign ministry in Jerusalem on July 5, 2020. (AFP)

LONDON (RAHNUMA): UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for dialogue to resolve tensions over the proposed annexation by Israel of parts of the occupied Palestinian territories.

Johnson spoke with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, over concerns about Israel’s plan, a week after discussing it with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Johnson “urged President Abbas to engage in negotiations and offered the UK’s support to foster dialogue,” a Downing Street spokesman said. “The leaders agreed to continue to work together on this issue and others.”

On July 1, Johnson published an article in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper urging Tel Aviv not to push ahead.

“It is with sadness that I have followed the proposals to annex Palestinian territory. As a life-long friend, admirer and supporter of Israel, I am fearful that these proposals will fail in their objective of securing Israel’s borders and will be contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, 11 European foreign ministers have written to the EU to ask for possible actions that the bloc could take to prevent the proposed annexation.

Ministers from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Finland asked EU Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell to set out the “legal consequences” of the move, following an initial request made at a meeting in May.

The letter suggested that doing so could help members “deter annexation” by laying out to Israel the consequences of such action.

“The possible annexation by Israel of parts of the occupied Palestinian territory remains a matter of grave concern for the EU and its member states,” it said.

“We understand that this is a sensitive issue and timing is important, but time is also short. We are concerned that the window to deter annexation is fast closing.”

Moves to formally incorporate what could amount to up to 30 percent of the West Bank into Israel began with the signing of a coalition government agreement earlier this year, after Netanyahu made the issue a central pledge in his re-election campaign.

The EU relies on consensus among members to take steps in any direction on issues of foreign policy, but though some states have called for sanctions against Israel, others oppose punitive measures.

In June, over 1,000 European politicians signed a letter that condemned Israel, saying: “Acquisition of territory by force has no place in 2020 and must have commensurate consequences.”

A similar letter signed by 47 UN experts called Israel’s plan “a vision of a 21st-century apartheid.”

In February, Borrell said Israeli annexation would not be allowed to go “unchallenged.” However, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said annexation is a matter for Tel Aviv.

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