Europe under pressure to act against Israel’s annexation plans

Europe under pressure to act against Israel’s annexation plans
Europe under pressure to act against Israel’s annexation plans

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - In the face of Washington’s announcement of a plan to restart the Middle East peace process, European nations must act to save a viable two-state solution for Israel-Palestine, an expert has warned.

Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow with the Middle East and North Africa programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told The National Europe needed to show it would uphold international principles for Palestinians.

The Middle East fellow has said the US plan, which is skewed in Israel’s favour, is a rejection of the two-state solution and international legal principles which have formed the cornerstone of efforts to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“It's not only for Europe to show that it can live up to its values, its principles and its policies but also that the international rules based order can actually deliver for Palestinians,” he said.

“It is not for Palestinians to prove that this works. It is for third states and particularly the EU, particularly because of its DNA, to prove that this system can work,” Mr Lovatt added.

On Tuesday, US President Donald unveiled his so-called “plan of the century” which proposes the creation of a Palestinian state while imposing strict conditions within the planned borders.

It grants control of long-contested West Bank settlements to Israel and proposes a timeline for the creation of a Palestinian capital in the Abu Dis district of East Jerusalem.

In response, emboldened Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would look into the application of sovereignty to the settlements, a de jure annexation of the territory, on Sunday.

The response to the plan from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt has been to say Trump’s deal offers a potential opportunity to reinvigorate moribund peace talks in the region.

Talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators ran aground in 2014 after years of setbacks.

However, Palestinian leaders have roundly rejected the deal and analysts have said the plans will kill the path to the very two-state solution Mr Trump purportedly supports.

“Despite its appropriation of the two-state label, the United States is not offering Israelis and Palestinians a viable and peaceful future in their own states. Instead, its proposal would cement a one-state reality of open-ended occupation and unequal rights for Palestinians,” Mr Lovatt said.

“If European governments are serious about avoiding this reality, they must urgently take decisive steps towards a viable two-state solution in line with internationally agreed parameters as the best means of ensuring equal rights for both peoples. This means rejecting Trump’s plan,” he added.

Europe’s reaction to the US plan has been mixed and lukewarm with many nations saying they will need to study the proposals.

The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell Fontelles said in a statement that Europe would remain committed to “a negotiated and viable two-state solution that takes into account the legitimate aspirations of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, respecting all relevant UN resolutions and internationally agreed parameters”.

However, there is daylight between European nations on the Middle East Peace process. Jurgen Hardt, a foreign policy spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said he was concerned that “some of the demands he mentioned towards Palestinians concerning the territories will not open the door for negotiations".

At the same time UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to speak in more enthusiastic terms about the possible Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem than Mr Trump had mustered.

"No peace plan is perfect but this has the merit of a two-state solution, it is a two-state solution, it would ensure that Jerusalem is both the capital of Israel and of the Palestinian people," the UK prime minister said.

However, in Britain the annexation of territory in the West Bank, northern Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley remains a sticking point.

During responses to an urgent question in the country’s parliament on the Middle East Peace Plan on Thursday, MP David Jones asked whether Britain would “acquiesce on the illegal annexation of land already held”.

Middle East minister Andrew Murrison responded by saying Britain’s position on settlements had not changed. “We’ve made our position clear to the Americans and others consistently and our position has not changed,” he said.

France’s Quai d’Orsay has also reasserted itself to a two-state solution while it mulls over the details of the plan. "France welcomes President Trump's efforts and will study closely the peace program he has presented," a statement from the French foreign ministry said.

Updated: January 30, 2020 07:50 PM

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