Biden administration rejects annexation comparisons between Russia and Israel

White House ‘categorically rejects’ likening Israeli presence in West Bank to Russia’s ‘brutal war of aggression,’ saying Ukraine posed no threat

State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference at the State Department, March 10, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pool)
State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference at the State Department, March 10, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pool)

JTA — The Biden administration on Thursday rejected comparisons between Russia’s annexation of parts of Ukraine and Israel’s military control of the West Bank.

“We categorically reject the blanket comparison between [Israel’s occupation and] the actions of the Kremlin – Russia in this case – that has launched and waged a brutal war of aggression against another sovereign state, a sovereign state that posed and poses no threat whatsoever to the Kremlin, a military campaign… whose toll can be measured in thousands upon thousands of lives lost,” Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said.

Price was reacting to a reporter’s question about a statement by Navi Pillay, the chairwoman of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into Israel’s activities in the West Bank.

The commission report concluded that Israel’s 55-year-old rule of the West Bank had become so entrenched it was now de facto annexation. Prime Minister Yair Lapid called the report “biased, false, inciting and blatantly unbalanced.”

Pillay, in the statement attached to the release of the report, said that the UN General Assembly’s recent condemnation of Russia for annexing four areas of Ukraine would be rendered meaningless if the United Nations did not adopt her commission’s report.

Then-UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay speaks during a press conference in Rabat, Morocco, on May 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Schemm, File)

“Recent statements by the Secretary-General and numerous member States have clearly indicated that any attempt at unilateral annexation of a State’s territory by another State is a violation of international law and is null and void; 143 member States including Israel last week voted in favor of a General Assembly resolution reaffirming this,” she said. “Unless universally applied, including to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, this core principle of the United Nations Charter will become meaningless.”

In the press briefing, Price enumerated the differences the Biden administration saw between the Israel and Russia situations, among them that Russia faced no threat from Ukraine prior to launching its war against the country, and that the West Bank is not Palestinian sovereign territory.

He said that Israel should not be immune from criticism and that the Biden administration remains committed to a two-state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But he added that the United Nations frequently unfairly singles out Israel for criticism.

“No country is or should be immune from criticism. That, of course, includes Israel,” he said. “Some of the criticism that we’ve heard – and we’ve, of course, offered our own over the course of recent months – is justified. Much of it is not.”

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