As Israel moves closer to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, solidarity in the Global South has been gaining momentum. On 2 July Chile’s Telephone Tower was lighted with the Palestinian kufiyeh in support of the Palestinian people and rejection of the annexation plan. Chile, the country with the largest population of Palestinians in Latin America, directed their gesture of support to the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories.
Chile was not alone in its solidarity efforts; representatives from most Latin American countries signed a joint statement against Israel’s annexation plan. The document was released on 2 July by more than 320 public figures. Among them, former presidents, parliamentarians, ministers, academics and artists. They called upon the international community to impose effective counter measures against Israel, including targeted sanctions, ending trade ties and legal action.
Some of the signatories are the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (Argentina), former presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), Pepe Mujica (Uruguay), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Ernesto Samper (Colombia) and Evo Morales (Bolivia). Among them also was Brazil’s former Minister of Foreign affairs, Celso Amorim. Amorim spoke on 4 July in Global South Virtual Rally, which was organized by Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. He said, “I am honored to sign this open letter. I fully support the measures of individual countries; others require UN action. As it happened with [South Africa] apartheid, the General Assembly is fully entitled do take the corresponding decisions recommended in it to prevent annexation.”
The former Speaker of Knesset (Israel’s parliament), Abraham Borg, said US President Donald Trump has halted the Israeli plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, Anadolu reports.
In an interview with Italian daily “Il Fatto Quotidiano”, Borg said Trump stopped the implementation of the annexation plan as “he doesn’t have time to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in implementing the annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley”.
He described both Netanyahu and Trump as suffering from a “narcissistic paranoia, with no scrupulous and ethics who are ready to roll over anyone to save themselves and remain in power”.
When asked about another expected date for implementing the annexation plan, Borg said it is “very difficult, if not impossible, to set expectations to the annexation, because there is no transparency in this plan, no one knows its details.”
Netanyahu has vowed to start annexing all settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank as of July 1.
The move, however, appears to have come to a halt in light of widespread international rejection of the plan along with differences with the US administration on its application.
International law views both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “occupied territories” and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there as illegal.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday extended a state of emergency for 30 days to stem the spread of coronavirus pandemic, Anadolu reports.
The move comes as the Palestinian territories saw a surge in virus infections in recent days.
“The concerned authorities shall continue to take all necessary measures to face the dangers resulting from the coronavirus, protect public health and achieve security and stability,” reads a decree issued by Abbas and cited by the official Wafa news agency.
Abbas declared a state of emergency in the Palestinian territories for the first time on March 3 to combat the outbreak.
Palestinian authorities have so far confirmed 4,250 virus infections, including 17 deaths.
Despite their sufferings, Palestinians will not raise the white flag,” the Head of the Sebastia Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem Archbishop Atallah Hanna announced on Friday.
In a press release sent to mass media, Hanna stated: “May God help the Palestinian people who endure the sufferings under coronavirus, unemployment and poverty.”
He stressed: “The Palestinians endure sufferings in every single side of their life due to the oppressive occupation policies.”
The archbishop continued: “May God help this nation amidst these circumstances which includes conspiracies aiming to liquidate our people, our just cause which is the most just and noble cause in modern human history.”
Concluding his remarks, Hanna noted: “We are sure that we will win in spite of all the difficulties and conspiracies which are targeting the Palestinians who will never raise the white flag.”
The ongoing cooperation between the two Palestinian rival groups, Hamas and Fatah, to topple the US deal of the century and Israel’s annexation is a “dangerous development”, Israeli Channel 12 reported on Friday.
Channel 12 disclosed that such a possibility was expected, but Israeli security did not expect that it would happen in such a short time-frame, adding: “It is a dangerous development because of the very short time they needed to reach this unity which surprised the Israeli security services.”
“The press conference is not important, but what is happening on the ground is very important, mainly the detention of Hamas members by the Palestinian Authority (PA),” Al Watan Voice reported the Israeli channel stating.
Fatah official: Unity ‘will inspire us to build a strategic vision, to lead the street’
The Hamas and Fatah have agreed to unite to confront Israel’s planned annexation of the occupied West Bank, they said in a statement yesterday.
Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, and Major General Jibril Rajoub, secretary of Fatah‘s Central Committee (FCC), took part in talks, with the Fatah official saying the reaction to the annexation decision showed a popular consensus to counter the plan, adding unity “will inspire us to build a strategic vision, to lead the street”.
He added: “We want to open a new page with Hamas and introduce a new model for our people and families, especially since the regional position has not dealt in any way with the annexation project.”
Rajoub called on “the Arab and Islamic world to respect the decisions of the Arab summits regarding normalisation and not to establish relations with the occupation, because there are those who want to use us as a bridge to have ties with Israel, either secretly or in public.”
“Netanyahu and his failed government are in a state of contradiction with the international community, and it is our duty today in Fatah and Hamas to keep this state of contradiction in place.”
For his part, Al-Arouri said that “all contentious issues will be frozen, and we will overcome it for the sake of a strategic and substantive agreement to resist the occupation.”
He said that the annexation plan “requires us to stand with each other in a sincere endeavour to thwart the occupation’s project.”
Israel, he explained, sees the West Bank as an integral part of the Zionist state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had set 1 July as the date to start annexation of the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley, this however was postponed as no agreement could be made on the endeavour with US officials.
Amnesty International called on the international community to take decisive action against Israel’s proposed annexation of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Saleh Hijazi, deputy director of the Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa, said that international law is very clear in this regard: “Annexation is illegal.”
He added, according to Amnesty’s statement, that “Israel’s policy shows a flagrant disregard for international law. These policies do not change the legal status of the land under international law and the situation of its residents under occupation, and do not deny Israel’s responsibilities as an occupying authority. Instead, it refers to the law of the jungle, which should have no place in our world today.”
Amnesty called on members of the international community to act to enforce international law and reaffirm that the annexation of any area of the occupied West Bank is illegitimate. They must also work for an immediate suspension of the construction or enlargement of illegal Israeli settlements and related infrastructure in the occupied Palestinian territories; that is a first step towards the expulsion of Israeli civilians who live illegally in these settlements.
Amnesty International clarified that Israel’s policy of relocating its civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories and displacing the local population is a breach of fundamental principles of international humanitarian law under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had set 1 July as the date to start annexation of the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley, this however was postponed as no agreement could be made on the move with US officials.
More than 320 scholars, former presidents and legislators from Latin America joined forces to condemn Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the occupied Palestinian territories.
In a joint statement, the public personalities said: “The increasing severity of the Israeli violations and its impunity compel us to answer to the call made by the vast majority of organisations from the Palestinian civil society.”
We support the Palestinian people’s demands to end the arm trades and the military and security cooperation with Israel; to lift the free trade agreements with that State; to ban the trade with the illegal Israeli settlements; and to hold accountable the individuals and cooperative actors, complicit with such regime of occupation and apartheid.
“We are committed to work, within our respective national frameworks, in order to speak up for the implementation of such measures,” they added.
Argentine recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize Adolfo Pérez Esquivel; Brazilian musicians Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso; former Presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), Pepe Mujica (Uruguay), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Ernesto Samper (Colombia); former Minister of Foreign Relations of Brazil Celso Amorim; and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, former Secretary of Human Rights of Brazil were among the signatories which included 60 Brazilian members of parliament from various parties.
It came as part of an initiative to unify the African, Asian and Latin American response to annexation and call for sanctions against Israel and the reinstatement of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid to restrain its colonial policies.
Former Brazilian chancellor Celso Amorim added: “The annexation of the Palestinian territory by Israel is not just an offense against the international law and a threat to the peace, but also an aggression against men and women who fought against colonialism and apartheid.”
Secretary General of Fatah‘s Central Committee (FCC), Major General Jibril Rajoub, yesterday stressed that his party will “deal with it [Israel] like an enemy” if it proceeds with its planned annexation of the occupied West Bank.
“The current stage is the most dangerous that our people live and requires that we be able to face the challenge,” he stressed, adding that in the event that “the annexation was announced, we will treat the occupation as an enemy.”
His declaration came as Fatah and Hamas announced that they would be working together to face Israel’s annexation plans.
His statement was met with ridicule, as online activists pointed out that Israel has long been an enemy of the Palestinians and has seldom adhered to any agreements under the treaties signed between the two parties.
Rajoub called Hamas a “complete partner” in the battle against Israel’s intention to extend sovereignty.
“We are now talking about a joint struggle, a campaign on the ground,” said the senior Fatah official.
“We call on all Palestinian factions to see cooperation between Hamas and Fatah as a historic opportunity for a joint fight to establish a Palestinian state and oppose the Israeli occupation,” he added, saying:
We have no enemy except for Israel.
He warned that the form of “resistance” would depend on the actions of Israel and whether or not it implemented its plan.
As expected, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed Israel’s annexation plan, for one day apparently, on the pretext of finishing his consultations with an American delegation. His decision was not made known for certain to his Foreign Minister, retired General Gabi Ashkenazi, who told Israel’s Army Radio: “It seems unlikely to me that this will happen today [1 July]. I reckon there will be nothing today, regarding [the extension of Israeli] sovereignty.”
Although Ashkenazi is a minister in a government led by Netanyahu, he spoke about the date of the planned annexation as a member of the Blue and White Party, a coalition partner led by another former general, Defence Minister Benny Gantz. While Ashkenazi did not provide a clear explanation for the postponement of the annexation, Gantz did not hesitate, starting with the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. He pointed out that 1 July was neither sacred nor set in stone as the official annexation date, because the unity government is divided with several heads.
The postponement was no great surprise or the product of a particular variable. It was imposed by the mounting pressure and concern within Israel and Washington, which pressed for the formation of the unity government. The US is also afraid of an outbreak of protests in the occupied Palestinian territories and, indeed, across the region, as a result of the Israeli annexation plan. The Trump administration’s concerns have grown with the spread of the coronavirus and the growing tension with Iran in light of the Caesar Act’s consequences for Syria. More important has been the international and especially European opposition to the Israeli move; UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres drew attention repeatedly to the illegality of the annexation and its threat to regional stability and, as the 1 July implementation date approached, a clearer international position became evident.
“An annexation decision could not be left without consequences,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the French Parliament. “We are examining different options at a national level and also in coordination with our main European partners.”
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed Israel’s leaders lovingly, as usual, but said: “I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead. If it does, the UK will not recognise any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between both parties.” Labour opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer expressed a firmer position, warning against the Israeli move and talking about possible sanctions.
These warnings set out new parameters; they are not what Netanyahu expected to hear, so he could isolate his country from Europe and simply use Israel’s military superiority to impose its will on the Palestinians, using the annexation and Israeli sovereignty to give himself a fig leaf of legitimacy to act as he sees fit. The step is reminiscent of major revolutions such as happened in Algeria when France failed to implement its promises made after the Second World War. Those promises were similar to the guarantees and promises made to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) following the signing of the Oslo Accords which have not been implemented.
The political and security tracks of Netanyahu’s annexation plan collided with many facts and realities in occupied Palestine, the region and the world, despite his efforts to bypass them by promoting normalisation with the Gulf states and suggesting partial or gradual annexation, culminating with his “discussions with the Americans” as an excuse to postpone the implementation date. None of his efforts have prevented escalations in the occupied Palestinian territories in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and they have not stopped the new path from taking shape.
International reactions continued to snowball yesterday, as the postponement did not encourage any fundamental changes in them. Israel was met with a Palestinian counterstrategy based on escalation, confrontation and maximisation of the international and regional pressure. This could open the door to a new scenario that surpasses the miserable propositions of Netanyahu and some Zionist research centres which envisage getting annexation and normalisation implemented and out of the way before the US presidential election in November without major consequences in the region.
The Israeli annexation plan has charted a new path for the conflict and opened the door to new scenarios, security and political possibilities. The first could be the collapse of Israel’s unity government. If the annexation project can be thwarted, we could see more political, military and legal achievements in the face of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These could have repercussions beyond the US election and affect alliances and ongoing conflicts in the region.