UK crit­i­cised over ‘lack­lus­tre’ re­sponse to West Bank plan

The Guardian - - World Palestinia­n Territorie­s - Pa­trick Win­tour Diplo­matic ed­i­tor

Pres­sure on the UK gov­ern­ment to com­mit to con­crete mea­sures and not just “lack­lus­tre” ver­bal con­dem­na­tion if Is­rael goes ahead with an­nex­a­tion of parts of the West Bank has been stepped up by a coali­tion of 14 Bri­tish char­i­ties and hu­man rights groups.

The pres­sure fol­lows the shadow for­eign sec­re­tary, Lisa Nandy, at the week­end con­firm­ing that the Labour party sup­ported a ban on Is­raeli im­ports made in West Bank set­tle­ments if an­nex­a­tion of parts of the occupied Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries went ahead. Her pro­posal, con­demned by the Board of Deputies of Bri­tish Jews, has been backed by the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, and is likely to be raised in the Com­mons to­day.

There are no of­fi­cial fig­ures of set­tle­ment ex­ports to the EU, as the Is­rael gov­ern­ment makes no dis­tinc­tion, but the most re­cent es­ti­mated value is €229m (£210m) – less than 2% of to­tal Is­raeli ex­ports to the EU, which were €14.7bn in 2017.

The For­eign Of­fice has so far said an il­le­gal an­nex­a­tion could not go unan­swered or un­chal­lenged, but has gone no fur­ther, partly since it is still hop­ing Is­rael may yet pull back.

The UK will also be co­or­di­nat­ing if pos­si­ble with other ma­jor Euro­pean states, but the EU is di­vided on how to re­spond, with some groups such as the Bel­gian par­lia­ment vot­ing for sanc­tions, if nec­es­sary in a coali­tion of the will­ing.

UK diplo­mats will also be gaug­ing the true depth of the so far sur­pris­ingly strong op­po­si­tion in the Arab states.

The char­i­ties, in­clud­ing Chris­tian Aid, ac­cuse the UK of a “lack­lus­tre” re­sponse so far.

Their state­ment said: “While re­it­er­at­ing its prin­ci­pled op­po­si­tion to an­nex­a­tion, and stat­ing that such ac­tion is il­le­gal, the UK has con­sis­tently failed to out­line how it will mean­ing­fully op­pose it. The pre­cise shape that this an­nex­a­tion will take re­mains un­clear, though it is likely to en­com­pass ex­ist­ing set­tle­ments, and po­ten­tially the re­source-rich agri­cul­tural lands of the Jor­dan Val­ley that are so vi­tal to the Pales­tinian econ­omy. But whether an inch of land or the en­tire West Bank, such a move would be man­i­festly un­law­ful.”

The groups, due to their char­i­ta­ble sta­tus, make no spe­cific pro­posal, but stronger op­tions in­clude recog­ni­tion of Pales­tine, wider sanc­tions built on UN res­o­lu­tions and use of an im­mi­nent UK-Is­rael trade agree­ment to pun­ish hu­man rights abuses.

The Mid­dle East min­is­ter, James Clev­erly, told the UN se­cu­rity coun­cil last week that the UK strongly op­posed an­nex­a­tion. “Such a step would go against the rules-based in­ter­na­tional or­der and the UN Charter. An­nex­a­tion could not go unan­swered, and we im­plore Is­rael to re­con­sider,” he said.

Nandy said an­nex­ing nearly a third of the West Bank would un­der­mine the prospects for a peace­ful two-state so­lu­tion and had se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tions for the sta­bil­ity of the Mid­dle East.

Labour’s Lisa Nandy has called for a ban on im­ports from the West Bank

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.