The EU warned Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if he wins next week’s election undermines chances for peace in the region.
Netanyahu’s vow was roundly condemned by the Palestinians as well as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, with the EU saying it would not recognize any change to Israel’s borders that was not agreed to by both sides.
“The policy of settlement construction and expansion… is illegal under international law and its continuation, and actions taken in this context, undermine the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” an EU spokesperson said in a statement.
In a televised speech, Netanyahu also reiterated his intention to annex Israeli settlements in the wider West Bank if reelected.
Critics have warned that such a move could effectively kill any remaining hope for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, long the focus of international diplomacy.
Netanyahu’s plan, which would see Israeli sovereignty applied to a strip of land in the West Bank adjacent to the Jordan River and reaching from the Dead Sea in the south to Beit She’an in the north, would exclude but encircle the Palestinian city of Jericho and the town Al-Auja, as well as including six more Palestinian communities.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas vowed to cancel any previous agreements with Israel if it went ahead with the move.
Earlier this month, the Palestinian Authority reportedly began the process of issuing building permits in all areas of the West Bank — even those where Israel maintains security and administrative control. That decision was announced in early August by PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh during a meeting in Ramallah that was attended by Saleh and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi al-Hadami, among others.
“Israel no longer respects any of the signed agreements and has started to deal with all places as if they are part of Area C. Therefore, we will deal with all places as if they are part of Area A,” Shtayyeh said at the time, according to the official PA news site Wafa.
Area C, some 60 percent of the West Bank, is where the Israeli settlements are located; it is administered by Israel, whereas Area A is under PA control.
“The secretary-general’s position has always been clear: unilateral actions are not helpful in the peace process,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday.
“Any Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdictions and administration in the occupied West Bank is without any international legal effect. Such a prospect would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations, regional peace, and the very essence of a two-state solution.”
The United States, which is expected to unveil its long-awaited peace plan sometime after next week’s Knesset election, took a different tack, stating that Netanyahu’s plan would not foreclose the possibility of a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if enacted.