Abbas: If Israel annexes, it will bear responsibility as an occupying power

Palestinian leader’s remarks made in a speech to the Arab Parliament on Wednesday; Ramallah officials have floated the possibility of dissolving the Palestinian Authority

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Arab Parliament, a branch of the Arab League, on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 (Credit: WAFA)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Arab Parliament, a branch of the Arab League, on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 (Credit: WAFA)

If Israel annexes “even one centimeter” of the West Bank, it will be obligated to bear the responsibilities of an occupier in the area, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the Arab Parliament on Wednesday.

The Arab Parliament constitutes the legislative branch of the Arab League, which held an emergency meeting Wednesday. Egypt initiated the meeting to discuss the crisis in Libya.

“Such an illegitimate step will obligate Israel to bear the responsibilities in occupied land as an occupying power according to the Fourth Geneva Convention,” Abbas said.

The Geneva Conventions lay out the responsibilities of an occupying power and are often used as the legal basis for declaring Israeli settlement building illegal. They also stipulate, among other requirements, that an occupying power must provide “medical and hospital establishments and services” and take charge of providing for the education of children of those living in the occupied zone.

Such a statement could mean the end of the Palestinian Authority as it is currently constituted. But Abbas’s remarks correspond to what other high-ranking PA officials have told journalists in recent weeks. Senior PA official Hussein al-Sheikh told The New York Times that the PA was “not a charity” and would not stand idly by while Israel undermined its authority in the West Bank.

“Every day, I’ll be retreating from my responsibilities,” al-Sheikh told The New York Times in early June. “I am telling the Israelis, if this situation continues, you will have to take full responsibility as an occupying power. It could go back to like it was before Oslo.”

Abbas said the Palestinian leadership continued to support the Arab Peace Initiative, and urged Arab states to put pressure on Israel to return to negotiations on the basis of the Saudi-devised peace plan.

In January, US President Donald Trump unveiled a controversial plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, which gives Israel a green light to annex West Bank settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley, amounting to some 30 percent of the territory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce his strategy to implement Trump’s plan as soon as July 1.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the move on Tuesday in a statement to the Security Council.

“This would be calamitous for Palestinians, Israelis and the region,” Guterres said. He also said the plan would thwart “efforts to advance regional peace.”

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