Some nations said gearing up to recognize Palestine if annexation goes ahead

TV network quotes Palestinian officials claiming Ireland has confirmed it will do so; German FM also said to warn Israeli leaders of such action, as well as possible sanctions

Protesters gather in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on June 6, 2020, to denounce Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Illustrative: Protesters gather in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on June 6, 2020, to denounce Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Palestinian and European officials have indicated some countries could retaliate for unilateral Israeli annexation of sections of the West Bank by recognizing a Palestinian state and sanctioning Israel, Hebrew media outlets reported Wednesday.

Quoting unnamed Palestinian officials, Kan TV news reported that several European countries, among them Ireland, have said they will recognize a Palestinian state if Israel extends sovereignty over areas designated for it under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

The report said the Palestinian Authority was also querying the positions of France, Spain, Luxembourg, Portugal and Belgium. A committee in the latter’s lower house of parliament passed a resolution Wednesday calling on the government to recognize a Palestinian state. That resolution is slated to be debated in the full chamber in the next 15 days.

Meanwhile, during meetings with Israeli leaders Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was said to issue similar warnings.

According to reports in Haaretz and Walla news, Maas warned that while Germany was unlikely to take punitive measures against Israel if it moves forward with annexation, other countries could impose sanctions or recognize a Palestinian state.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas gives a statement to the media following his meeting with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Maas, who held separate meetings during a quick visit to Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, told them some countries in the European Union were pushing to sanction Israel if annexation moves forward, the reports said.

Maas, a Social Democrat known as a staunch supporter of Israel, was the first senior foreign dignitary to visit Israel since the new government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was formed last month. His visit comes three weeks before Germany takes over the rotating presidencies of both the United Nations Security Council and the European Council and is thus likely to play a critical role in moderating the international community’s response to possible Israeli annexation.

Under the coalition deal between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White, the premier can begin moving forward on July 1 with annexing West Bank territories set aside for Israel under Trump’s proposal.

An Israeli-American committee has been working on mapping out the areas over which Washington would agree to Israel extending its sovereignty.

However, a minister in Netanyahu’s Likud party said last week that the July 1 target date for annexation could be pushed off by weeks, while a source told The Times of Israel that the US was “highly unlikely” to support Israel moving forward with annexation then.

A television report Monday claimed the US was disinclined to back Netanyahu’s repeatedly declared intention to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank unless the move is supported by his Blue and White coalition partners Gantz and Ashkenazi.

On Wednesday, reports said the three were set to meet next week with David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, to discuss annexation.

According to Channel 13 news, the meetings would be an effort to bridge the differences within the Israeli government on the matter, with Blue and White wary the move could damage Israel’s diplomatic ties with other countries, among them Jordan.

While Ashkenazi said during his press conference with Maas Wednesday that there were no precise maps yet of the areas that would be annexed, the network said Netanyahu showed the German foreign minister what he said were maps from the Trump plan during the meeting. But the premier did not give any concrete details on annexation, the report said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. left, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, center, and then-Tourism Minister Yariv Levin during a meeting to discuss mapping extension of Israeli sovereignty to areas of the West Bank, held in the Ariel settlement, February 24, 2020. (David Azagury/US Embassy Jerusalem)

Also Wednesday, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation said Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank mark a “serious escalation” that threatens the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Following a virtual meeting of OIC foreign ministers, the pan-Islamic body said it “warns against the dangerous intention of Israel.”

The annexation threat amounts to “an official declaration by Israel of revocation of all its signed agreements” and “a serious escalation of its colonial policies and measures,” the OIC said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan reiterated the move would represent a “dangerous escalation” that threatens the chances of resuming the peace process.

The Palestinians, who have rejected Trump’s plan out of hand, on Tuesday said they had  presented a counter-proposal for the creation of a “sovereign Palestinian state, independent and demilitarized” to the Quartet, made up of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia.

AFP contributed to this report.

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