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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Trump turns his back on Israel annexation plan: reelection bid or EU-US rapprochement?

As Israel’s annexation plan receives condemnation from the UN and the rest of the international community, including Trump’s opponent Joe Biden, Trump has backtracked his support. The Israeli PM’s secrecy has also led many to believe that the plan is being put on hold. This could signify a possible realignment between the EU and USA as matters become complicated as regards China.

The former Speaker of Knesset (Israel’s parliament), Abraham Borg, said US President Donald Trump has halted the Israeli annexation plan for parts of the occupied West Bank.

In an interview with Italian daily “Il Fatto Quotidiano”, Borg said Trump stopped the implementation of the annexation plan as “he doesn’t have time to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in implementing the annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley”.

Trump withdraws support from plans

He described both Netanyahu and Trump as suffering from a “narcissistic paranoia, with no scrupulous and ethics who are ready to roll over anyone to save themselves and remain in power”.

When asked about another expected date for implementing the annexation plan, Borg said it is “very difficult, if not impossible, to set expectations to the annexation, because there is no transparency in this plan, no one knows its details.”

This is a sharp U-turn from Trump’s initial support for the annexation plan, and was even a part of his Middle East peace deal. 

Read more: US continues to support Israel expansionist annexation policy

The administration of President Donald Trump, a close ally of Netanyahu, had declined to criticise annexation and had rejected the consensus of most of the world that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are illegal.

“Decisions about Israelis extending sovereignty to those places are decisions for the Israelis to make,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in Washington.

But US allies including the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, one of two Arab states to have a peace treaty with Israel, have warned that annexation would jeopardize the Jewish state’s hopes for better ties.

Pompeo brushed aside such concerns, saying the United states was “talking to all of the countries in the region” about the weeks ahead.

“I regret only that the Palestinian Authority has refused to participate in that,” Pompeo said.

International condemnation puts annexation plan on hold?

Netanyahu has vowed to start annexing all settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank as of July 1.

The move, however, appears to have come to a halt in light of widespread international rejection of the plan along with differences with the US administration on its application.

Netanyahu has given no indication as to his plans ahead of the possible July 1 kick-off date.

Israeli media have suggested action could be postponed indefinitely, or that Netanyahu might announce a symbolic gesture to limit international uproar, like the annexation of one Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Read more: Israel PM hiding details about annexation plan to avoid backlash?

Experts noted that Netanyahu is also watching the US election to see if Trump will be in office after January to defend his vision for Middle East peace.

International law views both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “occupied territories” and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there as illegal.

Gulf leaders have also made clear that moves towards annexation would threaten any warming relations with the Jewish state.

Europe against Israel’s plans 

Like Turkey and much of the international community, the EU does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over territories it has occupied since 1967. 

Germany Parliament expressed its strong opposition Wednesday to Israeli plans to annex. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned that the Israeli move would threaten the stability of the entire Middle East. “Peace cannot be reached through one-sided steps,” Maas told parliament in Berlin. He vowed to put the issue on top of the agenda as Berlin assumed a six-month rotating European Union presidency as well as head of the monthlong UN Security Council.

Maas urged Israel to reconsider its plans, saying it was still possible to use “the opportunity and the time window” before a likely annexation.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK would “not recognize any changes” to Israel’s borders set in 1967 unless also agreed to by the Palestinians. In an article penned for Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, Johnson warned Israel, urging an “outcome that delivers justice for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Johnson argued the proposed annexation “would put in jeopardy the progress that Israel has made in improving relationships with the Arab and Muslim world,” adding that Israel’s interests “overlap” with Arab partners. “But however strong their interest in a different kind of relationship with Israel, annexation would inevitably set back these opportunities and constrain potential Arab partners,” Johnson said.

Expressing the pride of the UK’s “contribution to the birth of Israel with the 1917 Balfour Declaration,” he said it would remain “unfinished business until there is a solution which provides justice and lasting peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.” “The only way it can be achieved is for both sides to return to the negotiating table,” he said. “That must be our goal. Annexation would only take us further away from it.”

Belgium and EU The Belgian parliament adopted a resolution June 26 that urged the government to prepare a list of countermeasures against Israel in case it annexes occupied Palestinian territories.

Earlier, more than 1,000 lawmakers from across Europe condemned the West Bank annexation plan in a joint letter. They urged European leaders to prevent the annexation, save prospects of a two-state solution and expressed support for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s previous statement that warned “annexation could not pass unchallenged.” In total, 1,080 members of national assemblies and the European Parliament from Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK signed the letter.

Speaking at the plenary session of the European Parliament June 18, Borrell said it would be a “serious violation of international law” if the Israeli government decided unilaterally to annex any parts of the West Bank. The majority of EU member states can only accept “a negotiated two-state solution, based on international parameters.”

UN says Israel annexation plan illegal

Israeli annexation is clearly “illegal“, the UN’s human rights chief said earlier, warning that the consequences could be “disastrous”. This comes in the wake of Israel pigheadedly moving forward with its plans for annexation of the West Bank, despite international condemnation.

Read more: UN rights chief puts Israel annexation debate to rest

“Annexation is illegal. Period,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.

“Any annexation. Whether it is 30 percent of the West Bank, or five percent,” she said, urging Israel to “listen to its own former senior officials and generals, as well as to the multitude of voices around the world, warning it not to proceed along this dangerous path.”

Bachelet urged Israel to shift course, warning that “the shockwaves of annexation will last for decades, and will be extremely damaging to Israel, as well as to the Palestinians.”

“The precise consequences of annexation cannot be predicted,” she said.

Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk

Could Trump have withdrawn support in order to up his chances of being re-elected? What are your views on this? Share with us in the comments bar below.