Erdogan says Turkey ‘won’t allow’ Israel to annex parts of West Bank

Turkish president issues threat over new government’s plans to apply sovereignty, calls Jerusalem a ‘red line’ for world’s Muslims

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks during a televised address to the nation in Istanbul, on May 11, 2020. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks during a televised address to the nation in Istanbul, on May 11, 2020. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened Israel over its new government’s plan to annex portions of the West Bank.

“We are witnessing a new plan of occupation and annexation by Israel that threatens Palestinian sovereignty and is contrary to international law,” Erdogan said in a video address late Sunday for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. “We won’t allow the transfer of Palestinian land to anyone.”

“Turkey is the only voice defending the Palestinians today,” Erdogan said in a televised address. “The world order has let down the Palestinians, and has not successfully brought peace, justice, security and order to this part of the world.”

Erdogan added that Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are “holy to three religions and are the red line for all Muslims in the world.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vows to begin annexing the Jordan Valley and all settlements in July has drawn condemnations from a growing list on countries, including Arab states such as Jordan and European nations like France and Germany.

Netanyahu on Monday reiterated the July date set out in the coalition agreement for beginning the process of extending sovereignty, and informed his Likud lawmakers he has no intention of changing it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, arrives for a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, May 25, 2020. (Flash90)

At the opening of his Likud faction’s weekly meeting in the Knesset, Netanyahu said there has never been a better time in the country’s history to annex these areas.

“We have an opportunity that hasn’t existed since 1948 to apply sovereignty in a wise way and as a diplomatic step in Judea and Samaria, and we will not let this opportunity pass,” Netanyahu said, referring to the year the State of Israel was established and using the biblical names for the West Bank territory.

Later, during the part of the meeting that was closed to media, Netanyahu told the gathered MKs, “We have a target date in July to apply sovereignty and we will not change it,” according to Hebrew media reports.

Netanyahu was speaking to his Likud faction in his first public comments since he appeared in court on Sunday at the opening of his trial in three corruption cases.

The move would be coordinated with Washington, in accordance with the Middle East plan US President Donald Trump unveiled in January, which endorsed extending Israeli sovereignty over roughly 30 percent of the West Bank.

However, the entire peace plan has been rejected by the Palestinians, who seek the West Bank as territory for a future Palestinian state.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced last week that he was cutting off all security cooperation with Israel because of Netanyahu’s declared intentions to annex settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 7, 2020. (Nasser Nasser/Pool/AFP)

There has also been increasing concern — and warnings to Israel — from the international community against annexation.

In recent days even Trump administration officials have appeared to seek to dampen expectations that Washington will quickly green-light the move without any progress in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The State Department’s chief spokesperson said earlier this month that any action should be part of discussions between Israel and the Palestinians on the administration’s peace plan.

Under the coalition deal between Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz, the defense minister, the prime minister can pursue annexation.

Last month, Netanyahu struck a complex power-sharing deal with Gantz. Under the arrangement, the prime minister can bring up his proposal to annex some 30% of the West Bank — all the settlements and the Jordan Valley — on July 1, when he will need approval from either the cabinet or the Knesset.

Until then, the government’s focus is supposed to be exclusively on responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

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