Vatican summons Israeli, US ambassadors to protest annexation plans

Holy See calls on Israel and the Palestinians to return to dialogue; France warns that unilateral Israeli steps would have ‘consequences’

Illustrative: Pope Francis meets Oren David, the new Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See, on the occasion of the presentation of letters of credentials, at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. (L'Osservatore Romano/ANSA via AP)
Illustrative: Pope Francis meets Oren David, the new Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See, on the occasion of the presentation of letters of credentials, at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. (L'Osservatore Romano/ANSA via AP)

The Vatican said Wednesday that it had summoned the ambassadors of Israel and the United States for meetings to protests Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank within the framework of the Trump peace plan.

In separate meetings Tuesday, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told Israeli Ambassador Oren David and US Ambassador Callista Gingrich of the Holy See’s concern “regarding possible unilateral actions that may further jeopardize the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the delicate situation in the Middle East,” according to a Vatican statement.

There was no immediate comment from the Foreign Ministry.

The meetings came a day ahead of the July 1 date that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had designated to start the process.

The Trump administration plan, unveiled in January, envisions bringing some 30 percent of the territory — covering all 132 settlements, home to 450,000 Israelis, and the strategic Jordan Valley — under permanent Israeli control, while conditionally giving the Palestinians statehood in the remaining West Bank land and additional territory inside Israel.

But the Palestinians, who seek all of the West Bank as part of a future state, have rejected the Trump plan, and Netanyahu’s resulting unilateral drive for annexation has come under stiff international criticism. The United Nations, European Union and key Arab countries have all said an Israeli annexation would violate international law and undermine the already diminished prospects of establishing a viable independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Even close allies, like Britain, have opposed it.

“As already declared … the Holy See reiterates that the State of Israel and the State of Palestine have the right to exist and to live in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders,” the Vatican said.

US Vice President Mike Pence, left, shakes hands with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin after having a private audience with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (Alessandro Di Meo/Pool Photo via AP)

“It thus appeals to the Parties to do everything possible to reopen the process of direct negotiation, on the basis of the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations, and aided by measures that can reestablish reciprocal confidence, so that they may have ‘the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity,'” the statement said, quoting from Pope Francis’ Invocation for Peace in the Holy Land from 2014.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also warned Wednesday that annexation would have consequences.

“Annexation of Palestinian territories, whatever the perimeters, would seriously throw into question the parameters to resolve the conflict,” Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing, according to Reuters.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian addresses the media during a joint press conference after a meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin, Germany, June 19, 2020. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/DPA via AP, Pool)

“An annexation decision could not be left without consequences and we are examining different options at a national level and also in coordination with our main European partners.”

However, the threat of European sanctions on Israel appeared to fade after the German parliament said such a move would be unproductive. Germany took over the European Union presidency Wednesday.

The resolution called on the government in Berlin to use its close relationship with Israel to dissuade Jerusalem from implementing its planned unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank.

But the non-binding motion, passed with the votes of the two major centrist parties that make up the governing coalition, rejected calls for possible sanctions against the Jewish state as unproductive.

Even though the July 1 date passed without any actual moves, Netanyahu will continue to discuss the issue with the US administration, his office said in a statement.

At the same time, Netanyahu convened top Israeli security brass, including National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat, on Wednesday, to discuss the issue, the statement said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Brian Hook, US Special Representative for Iran and Senior Adviser to the US Secretary of State, in Jerusalem on June 30, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The statement came amid uncertainty over whether Israel will ultimately follow through on the explosive annexation initiative.

The Haaretz daily reported that their has been little preparation in Israel for such a move.

The cabinet has not debated the issue at length, the Justice Ministry has not prepared for the legal ramifications and the Foreign Ministry has also not been briefed on Israel’s arguments for the move, the report said.

Israel has never tried to annex West Bank territory before, saying the area is “disputed” and that its final status should be settled through negotiations.

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