This picture taken on June 30, 2020 shows a view of Israel's controversial separation barrier between the occupied West Bank village of al-Zaayem and the settlement of Maale Adumim (in the background). (By AFP)
Today is the first of July and Israel's much-publicized scheme to annex parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley has not gone exactly as planned amid widening differences within the Israeli ruling coalition and against the backdrop of massive international opposition to the land grab attempt.
The land grab bid appeared to be faltering on what was supposed to be its start-date, with the regime’s foreign minister saying Tel Aviv was unlikely to start implementing the highly contentious plan to annex large parts of the occupied territories on Wednesday.
“It seems unlikely to me that this will happen today,” Gabi Ashkenazi, a member of the centrist Blue and White party, which has partnered up with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud, told Israel's Army Radio on Wednesday.
“I reckon there will be nothing today, regarding (the extension of Israeli) sovereignty,” he added.
Netanyahu also suggested that there would be a delay in his annexation plan after he failed to get the green light for the move both from his key coalition partner Benny Gantz and the United States.
Netanyahu said Tuesday that discussions with the United States on his decision to annex Palestinian territories under President Donald Trump’s contentious Middle East plan would continue “in the coming days,” indicating he would miss his self-imposed July 1 target date.
Gantz and Ashkenazi have been refusing to endorse Netanyahu’s scheme, putting him in a difficult situation considering the White House’s insistence that a unified Israeli front is required for the plan to proceed.
The deal of the century envisions Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the Tel Aviv regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley. The plan also denies Palestinian refugees the right of return to their homeland, among other controversial terms.
Israel’s US-backed annexation scheme has triggered waves of protest rallies around the globe.
“I spoke about the question of sovereignty, which we are working on these days and we will continue to work on in the coming days,” Netanyahu said shortly after wrapping up talks with US Ambassador David Friedman and special Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz.
In recent days, Netanyahu and alternate prime minister Gantz have continued to spar publicly over the timing of the annexation plans, with the latter stating that it is too early to begin implementing them.
Speaking in an interview with the Ynet news site, Gantz said he believed that Israel had not yet gained the necessary diplomatic backing for implementing annexation plans.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV reported on Tuesday that American negotiators were asking Israel to make “a significant step” as a gesture to the Palestinians, such as handing over some lands in Area C of the West Bank, where the Tel Aviv maintains full control.
The Kan public broadcaster also reported that Israeli officials had passed along to the White House a slightly edited version of Trump’s plan, which closely connects a cluster of at least 15 isolated settlements to the West Bank territory that Netanyahu envisions in his annexation plans.
‘Israel’s annexation to undermine ties with EU’
On Tuesday, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, denounced Israel’s annexation plan, stating that the move constitutes a violation of international law and wrecks the prospects of the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“For us in Europe, it is painful to see the prospect of the two-state solution … at risk. The project of annexation … would mean the end of this solution. EU Member States think that the annexation would violate international law ...,” Borrell wrote in an article published in the English-language newspaper The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
He pointed to the social upshots of the annexation, noting, “It affects not only Palestinians, but also Israelis, the neighborhood and even us in Europe. Any violation of international law, particularly when involving the annexation of territories, has implications for the rules-based international order; it can therefore also affect negatively other conflict zones.”
The EU foreign chief also dismissed suggestions that the possible Israeli annexations would kick-start a new round of indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, emphasizing that “Negotiations should begin from the international parameters, and build from there.”
He went on to say that the European Union will always regard damaging the international system and legitimizing the occupation as unacceptable, adding that “unilateral annexation will have negative consequences for the security and stability of the region.”
“It would endanger Israeli peace agreements with its neighbors; it would seriously damage the Palestinian Authority, and any prospect of a two-state solution. In sum, it would not solve any problems, but create more, including for security,” Borrell pointed out.
He highlighted that the strong bond between Israel and Europe will inevitably retract in case the Tel Aviv regime proceeds with its annexation plans.
“Peace cannot be imposed, it has to be negotiated, regardless of how difficult this can be. Peace can also bring new possibilities for EU-Israel relations to further grow,” Borrell commented.