'We welcome this plan... This doesn't mean we endorse it'

Britain cautions Israel against advancing West Bank annexation

While UK has expressed cautious support for Trump plan, FM Dominic Raab says ‘any such unilateral moves’ can’t move forward without formal Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrives for a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 10 Downing Street in London, January 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrives for a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 10 Downing Street in London, January 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Britain on Friday cautioned Israel against quickly annexing parts of the West Bank in line with a new peace initiative outlined by US President Donald Trump.

The UK foreign office said London was “concerned by reports of possible moves toward annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel.”

“Any such unilateral moves would be damaging to renewed efforts to re-start peace negotiations, and contrary to international law,” it said in a statement, adding that: “Any changes to the status quo cannot be taken forward without an agreement negotiated by the parties themselves.”

Britain has been extremely cautious in response to the long-delayed plan announced Wednesday by Trump at an event attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but no Palestinians.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint statement in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images/AFP)

UK Foreign Office minister Andrew Morrison said Thursday that “we owe America and its president at least the time to consider this plan.”

But he also stressed that “this is not our plan” and that Britain was not fully backing it.

“Of course we welcome this plan,” Morrison told parliament. “This doesn’t mean we endorse its contents.”

Trump’s proposal envisions the Jewish state annexing key parts of the West Bank, including in the strategic Jordan Valley.

Netanyahu said on Tuesday he would seek cabinet approval on Sunday to annex settlements and territory that would become part of Israel under Trump’s plan. But the meeting has now been cancelled with no new date set, Hebrew media reports said Friday.

A convoy drives off after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held the weekly cabinet meeting in the Jordan Valley Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. (Amir Cohen/Pool via AP)

The proposal unveiled at the White House recognizes Israel’s right to annex the Jordan Valley, all West Bank settlements and their surroundings — some 30% of the West Bank in total.

However, it is not clear when Israel would go ahead with this process. Trump on Tuesday spoke of a joint committee in which the US and Israel would convert the plan’s conceptual map “into a more detailed and calibrated rendering so that recognition can be immediately achieved.”

Yet Netanyahu told reporters the same day that he would bring the annexation bid to a vote in Sunday’s cabinet meeting. Initially, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman indicated there was no impediment to this, but Jared Kushner and other senior US officials later said that they expected Israel to hold off until at least after the elections.

Kushner — Trump’s adviser and son-in-law who spearheaded the Middle East initiative — said that Washington does not want any moves made before Israel’s March 2 election.

Channel 13 reported that Kushner’s reaction came after the United Arab Emirates, whose ambassador attended Tuesday’s White House ceremony, also expressed concern over annexation moves before the elections.

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