Nearly 130 current and former British lawmakers wrote to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and urged him to impose economic sanctions if Israel moves ahead with plans to annex sections of the West Bank as part of a government coalition deal.
The letter states that the UK sanctioned Russia after it annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, and that therefore any annexation of the West Bank should be met with a similar response, the Guardian reported on Friday.
The letter was organized by the Council for Arab British Understanding and signatories reportedly included Conservative Party chairman Chris Patten and the former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell, as well as Labour’s Margaret Hodge.
Annexation would be a “mortal blow to the chances of peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on any viable two-state solution,” the letter stated, adding that they believe the Israeli government is using “the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic to seek to implement this egregious plan. It is vital that the UK does everything in its power to prevent this.”
“Our government has stated that any annexation ‘cannot go unchallenged. The government must now make clear publicly to Israel that any annexation will have severe consequences including sanctions. Words are not enough: Prime Minister Netanyahu has ignored our words. We need to prevent his government from setting this alarmingly dangerous precedent in international relations.”
US President Donald Trump in January unveiled a peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rejected by the Palestinians and condemned by much of the international community, the plan gives Israel the green light to annex Jewish settlements and other strategic territory in the West Bank.
An Israeli coalition government agreement reached last week includes a framework for implementing the annexations outlined in the plan, starting in July.
Under the US proposal, the Palestinians would be granted a sovereign but demilitarized state in the remaining parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, along with promises of major investment.
The Palestinian state’s capital would be on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which would remain fully under Israeli sovereignty.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he was “confident” Trump would let him fulfill his election promise to apply Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank “a couple of months from now.”
Netanyahu’s right-wing base is eager to move forward with annexation while the friendly Trump administration is in office.
The Netanyahu-Gantz deal stipulates that any Israeli action would need US backing, and must take into account Israel’s peace treaties with neighboring Jordan and Egypt, the only two Arab states that have formal peace treaties and diplomatic relations with Israel.
Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians seek those territories as part of a future independent state.
The Palestinians have refused to negotiate with the Trump administration, considering it biased. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened last week to cancel all agreements with Israel and the US if Israel moved forward with annexation plans.
Amid reports intimating that the White House is conditioning its support for Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank on negotiations over a Palestinian state, the administration stressed Friday that it continues to back Israel’s annexation plans, as long as they’re carried out in the framework of the peace plan Trump presented on January 28.
“Our position has not changed,” a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Jerusalem told The Times of Israel. “As we have made consistently clear, we are prepared to recognize Israeli actions to extend Israeli sovereignty and the application of Israeli law to areas of the West Bank that the [Trump peace plan] foresees as being part of the State of Israel.”
Eleven European ambassadors to Israel on Thursday warned Jerusalem of severe consequences if it carried out annexation.
The envoys from the UK, Germany, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and the EU issued a formal objection to the Foreign Ministry against the move, Channel 13 reported.
Also on Thursday, the Arab League said that the planned annexation constituted a “new war crime” against the Palestinians during a virtual conference chaired in Cairo.
The Arab League also urged the United States to “withdraw its support in enabling the plans of the occupying Israeli government.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.