The UN’s Middle East envoy warned Thursday that Israel’s aim to annex parts of the West Bank may fuel extremism and ignite a regional conflict.
Just days before Israel appears intended to kick-start plans to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, the United Nations has been urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to abandon the proposal.
Such a move could do irrevocable damage to Israeli-Palestinian relations, and also turn Palestinians toward extremism, according to UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov.
If Palestinians “feel that there is no prospect of a peaceful resolution to the conflict, that only creates opportunities for radicals,” he told journalists in Jerusalem.
Mladenov pointed to a “long litany of such developments” in the Middle East, referring to the rise of the Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq and Syria.
“You leave a vacuum, you take away a political prospect, you take away a positive agenda, and very quickly somebody comes and fills it with a negative and very destructive agenda,” he said.
Mladenov was speaking a day after a UN Security Council session in which Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as well as European and Arab powers, called on Netanyahu to end his annexation ambitions.
They view the move as illegal under international law, although the US has broken with this consensus and said Israel has the right to decide.
While countries have yet to announce retaliatory measures, Mladenov warned Israeli annexation could spark a regional conflict.
“Nobody wants another war, another flareup of violence in the Middle East, and certainly not one that has such a potential to ignite conflict way beyond its borders,” he said.
Neighboring Jordan, which along with Egypt is the only Arab nation to have a peace treaty with Israel, said it will be forced to review its bilateral ties if annexation goes ahead.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II said such a step would lead to a “massive conflict,” in an interview last month with German magazine Der Spiegel.
Under his coalition deal with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Netanyahu can begin moving forward with the annexation of areas slated for Israel under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan on July 1.
Washington’s deal paves the way for the ultimate creation of a Palestinian state on the remaining territory, but excludes key Palestinian demands such as a capital in East Jerusalem, and the Palestinians have rejected it entirely.