UN rights chief says Is­raeli an­nex­a­tion plan ‘dis­as­trous’

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The UN hu­man rights chief on Mon­day said that Is­rael’s plan to be­gin an­nex­ing parts of the oc­cu­pied West Bank would have “dis­as­trous” con­se­quences for the re­gion, is­su­ing her dire warn­ing as se­nior US and Is­raeli of­fi­cials met in Al-quds try­ing to fi­nal­ize the move.

The warn­ing by Michelle Bachelet, the UN high com­mis­sioner for hu­man rights, added to the grow­ing cho­rus of in­ter­na­tional voices urg­ing Is­rael not to carry out its plan. The UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral, the Euro­pean Union, and Arab and Mus­lim coun­tries have all spo­ken out against an­nex­a­tion, say­ing it would vi­o­late in­ter­na­tional law and all but de­stroy any re­main­ing hopes of es­tab­lish­ing a vi­able Pales­tinian state.

“The pre­cise con­se­quences of an­nex­a­tion can­not be pre­dicted,” Bachelet said in a state­ment is­sued by her of­fice in Geneva. “But they are likely to be dis­as­trous for the Pales­tini­ans, for Is­rael it­self, and for the wider re­gion”, AP re­ported

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s plan, un­veiled last Jan­uary, en­vi­sions leav­ing some 30% of the West Bank un­der per­ma­nent Is­raeli con­trol, while grant­ing the Pales­tini­ans au­ton­omy in the re­main­der of the area.

The Pales­tini­ans want all of the West Bank, along with East Al-quds and the Gaza Strip, for a fully in­de­pen­dent state. Is­rael cap­tured all three ar­eas in the 1967 war, though it with­drew from Gaza in 2005.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, a strong sup­porter of Trump, has de­fied the in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism. He says the sup­port­ive Trump pres­i­dency has pro­vided a rare op­por­tu­nity to re­draw the Mideast map and an­nex Is­rael’s scores of set­tle­ments built in the West Bank, as well as the strate­gic Jor­dan Val­ley. He has pledged to move for­ward as soon as July 1, seek­ing to take ac­tion well be­fore the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in Novem­ber.

In a speech to evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian sup­port­ers of Is­rael late Sun­day, Ne­tanyahu said Trump’s plan “fi­nally puts to rest the two-state il­lu­sion.”

“Pres­i­dent Trump’s plan doesn’t re­ally change the re­al­ity on the ground. It rec­og­nizes the re­al­ity on the ground,” he said.

Ne­tanyahu’s coali­tion part­ner and Al­ter­nate Prime Min­is­ter Benny Gantz, how­ever, has ap­peared to be more cau­tious. Both Ne­tanyahu and Gantz were meet­ing with White House en­voy Avi Berkowitz and the US Am­bas­sador to Is­rael David Fried­man to work on a fi­nal map out­lin­ing which ar­eas will be an­nexed. The talks were con­tin­u­ing af­ter a se­ries of meet­ings in Wash­ing­ton last week ended in­con­clu­sively.

Is­raeli me­dia have re­ported that Ne­tanyahu is con­sid­er­ing scal­ing back his plans and is ex­pected to an­nex just a small num­ber of set­tle­ments in a largely sym­bolic move.

But in her state­ment, Bachelet warned that even a small an­nex­a­tion would cre­ate a “highly com­bustible mix.”

She said deep­en­ing Is­rael’s con­trol of West Bank land would likely harm Pales­tinian free­dom of move­ment, turn Pales­tinian pop­u­la­tion cen­ters into “en­claves” and clear the way for Is­rael to “il­le­gally” ex­pro­pri­ate Pales­tinian land.

“The shock­waves of an­nex­a­tion will last for decades, and will be ex­tremely da­m­ag­ing to Is­rael, as well as to the Pales­tini­ans,” Bachelet warned. “How­ever there is still time to re­verse this de­ci­sion.”

AP

This Feb. 18, 2020 photo shows a view of the West Bank set­tle­ment of Ma’ale Efraim on the hills of the Jor­dan Val­ley.

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