Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh praised the ICC ruling as “a victory for justice and humanity,
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday angrily rejected an International Criminal Court’s ruling that paves the way for war crimes probe into the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, condemning it as “pure anti-Semitism”.
“As prime minister of Israel, I can assure you this: we will fight this perversion of justice with all our might,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
“This is pure anti-Semitism.”
On Friday, the ICC ruled that it has jurisdiction over the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, paving the way for the tribunal to open a war crimes investigation.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had asked the court for its legal opinion on whether its reach extended to areas occupied by Israel, after announcing in December 2019 that she wanted to start a full probe.
The ICC said its judges had “decided, by the majority, that the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine… extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including east Jerusalem”.
Palestine is a state party to the court, having joined in 2015, but Israel is not a member.
Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed mostly Arab east Jerusalem.
Today they are home to at least five million Palestinians defined by the United Nations as living under Israeli occupation. The Gaza Strip is blockade by Israel and ruled by the Islamist Hamas group.
Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh praised the ICC ruling as “a victory for justice and humanity, for the values of truth, fairness and freedom, and for the blood of the victims and their families”.
The Islamist movement Hamas, which rules Gaza and has fought three wars against Israel, said: “the most important step… is to bring the Zionist criminals of war before international courts and hold them responsible”.
But Netanyahu cried foul against any bid by the ICC to investigate “fake war crimes”.
“The court, established to prevent atrocities like the Nazi Holocaust against the Jewish people, is now targeting the one state of the Jewish people,” he said.
“First, it outrageously claims that when Jews live in our homeland, this is a war crime.
“Second, it claims that when democratic Israel defends itself against terrorists who murder our children and rocket our cities, we are committing another war crime,” he added.
He said the ICC should be investigating “brutal dictatorships like Iran and Syria who commit horrific atrocities almost daily”.
The US State Department said it has “serious concerns” about the ICC ruling, adding that Israel should not be bound by the court as it was not a member.
The Israeli army said it killed a Palestinian who carried out an attempted knife attack Sunday in the Gush Etzion area of the occupied West Bank.
“A knife attack was reported at the Gush Etzion junction, south of Bethlehem,” the army said in a statement. “The attacker was neutralised.”
The attacker “is dead”, the army told AFP, confirming that the military had killed the assailant.
The military later said the incident took place at a bus station, where soldiers were providing security to Israelis, with the suspect “running” at the forces while brandishing a stick with three knives fastened to it.
It said no military personnel were wounded in the attack.
Gush Etzion is a bloc of two dozen Israeli settlements and outposts near Bethlehem.
There is frequent friction at the nearby junction, which has been the site of numerous so-called lone wolf Palestinian attacks.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War.
There are currently about 475,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank living in communities considered illegal by most of the international community, alongside some 2.8 million Palestinians.
All Jewish settlements in the West Bank are regarded as illegal by most of the international community.
‘Arab consensus’ long held Arab states will normalise ties only if Israel meets a number of conditions for Palestinians.
Palestinians in Gaza burned pictures of Israeli, American, Bahraini, and United Arab Emirates leaders on Saturday in protest against the two Gulf countries’ moves to normalise ties with Israel.
Bahrain on Friday joined the UAE in agreeing to normalise relations with Israel, a move forged partly through shared fears of Iran but one that could leave the Palestinians further isolated.
The Gaza protest, attended by a few dozen people, was organised by the ruling group Hamas.
“We have to fight the virus of normalisation and block all its paths before it succeeds to prevent it from spreading,” said Hamas official Maher al-Holy.
Demonstrators set fire to images of US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
While the United States, Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain hail the diplomatic moves as a significant step towards peace and stability in the Middle East, the Palestinians see it as a betrayal.
They fear a weakening of a long-standing pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
Despite a deep political rift going back to 2007, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority (PA) has a limited rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and his Hamas rivals have been united against the Gulf states’ move.
‘Military alliance’ In the West Bank, Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat said the diplomatic push will not achieve peace if the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved first.
“The Bahraini, Israeli, American agreement to normalise relations is now part of a bigger package in the region. It isn’t about peace, it is not about relations between countries. We are witnessing an alliance, a military alliance being created in the region,” Erekat said.
Iran, meanwhile, said on Saturday that Bahrain’s move meant it would be complicit in Israeli policies that threatened regional security, Iranian state television reported. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said Bahrain would face “harsh revenge” from its own people and the Palestinians over the Gulf state’s move.
Turkey also condemned the deal saying it undermined the Palestinian cause and would “further embolden Israel to continue its illegal practices … and attempts to make the occupation of Palestinian territories permanent”.
Bahrainis opposed to their government’s agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Israel vented their frustration on social media on Saturday, underlining the complexities of the Gulf’s rapprochement with Israel.
The hashtags #Bahrainis_against_normalisation and #NormalizationIsBetrayal were trending on Twitter after Trump announced the deal late on Friday.
Bahrain, a Sunni-ruled kingdom with a large Shia population, shares with Israel a deep enmity towards Iran, and relies on the United States, which stations its Fifth Fleet on the tiny but strategic archipelago.
‘Black day’ Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said the deal represented a historic step towards achieving peace in the Middle East, but the PA and the Hamas condemned it as “another stab in the back” by an Arab government.
Unlike the UAE, opposition to normalisation runs deep in Bahrain, which has a history of open politics even if it has been suppressed over the past 10 years.
Former MP Ali Alaswad wrote it was “a black day in the history of Bahrain”.
The kingdom – a small archipelago located between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran – has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011, when security forces crushed Shia-led protests demanding reforms.
Opposition group Al-Wefaq criticised the normalisation deal.
“The agreement between the despotic regime in Bahrain and the Zionist occupation government is a total betrayal of Islam and Arabism and a departure from the Islamic, Arab and national consensus,” it said on Twitter.
Other anti-normalisation groups, based in Bahrain and abroad, expressed their anger in statements sent to media calling the deal “shameful”.
‘Deteriorating unity’ Sari Nusseibeh, a former top PLO official, said the Palestinian leadership was “very upset”.
“But I don’t think they are more upset than in the past about the Arab world in general. Palestinians have always complained that the Arab world has not stood behind them as they should have,” said Nusseibeh.
The Palestinian cause had already become less central as the region has been rocked by the Arab Spring upheavals, the Syria war, and the bloody onslaught by the armed group ISIL (ISIS).
At the same time, hostility has deepened between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“There have been all kinds of problems in the Arab world – disputes, revolutions, civil wars, tensions between different Arab countries,” said Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khatib. “Palestinians are now paying the price for the deterioration in Arab unity.”
The PA maintains the validity of the so-called “Arab consensus” and rejects the notion that it is isolated. That consensus has long held that Arab states will only normalise ties if Israel meets a number of conditions.
One demand is for Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in the Six-Day War of 1967.
Another is to agree to a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a third to find a just solution for the millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
“We hope that the Arab countries will remain committed to this consensus,” said Jibril Rajoub, a senior Palestinian official, adding straying from it “will lead to nothing”.
“Those who are violating the Arab consensus … will be isolated” in the long term, he warned.
Choosing sides One Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, shared the view that at the moment “the Palestinians don’t really have a way out”.
“They are also stuck because of those who want to support their cause, whether it is Turkey or Iran.”
Iran already has relations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and slightly cooler ties with the PA.
The Palestinian cause has also received backing from Turkey, a regional power increasingly at odds with Israel and that militarily backs a rival faction in the Libya war to the UAE and Egypt.
“Turkey does have an ambition to lead this cause and is pointing to the hypocrisy of both Arab states and the West for not emphasising this issue enough,” said Gallia Lindenstrauss of Israel’s National Institute for Security Research.
Rajoub insisted: “We are not ignoring any country. Turkey is a regional superpower, it’s an Islamic country and we are on good terms. We’ll keep cooperating with everybody.”
But Khatib argued the Palestinians should keep their distance. “It’s not wise for the Palestinians to be caught within the regional tensions and competition between regional superpowers,” he said.
“If you side with Iran, you’ll lose Saudi Arabia. If you side with Turkey, you’ll lose someone else. It’s better for the Palestinians to keep a safe distance from these different regional superpowers.”
Arab foreign ministers will attend a virtual session against the backdrop of UAE normalising relations with Israel.
An Arab League meeting on Wednesday will focus on the Palestinian cause after the Israel-UAE “normalisation” deal, with analysts suggesting division rather than usual unity on the issue will dominate the discussion.
The run-up to the virtual session has already left a sour taste for the Palestinian leadership.
On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority (PA) accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain of blocking a draft resolution that called on Arab states to adhere to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative plan before normalising ties with Israel.
The Arab Initiative put forth by Saudi Arabia calls for establishing ties with Israel in exchange for its withdrawal to the 1967 borders, a just solution for Palestinian refugees, and occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
A senior member of the PA’s governing Fatah faction, Hussein Hamayel, said Bahrain’s opposition to the draft resolution “places it on the side of the enemies of the Arabs and Muslims”.
However on Tuesday, in a bid to soften its tone, the official spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the leader “will not accept insulting the national symbols of Arab nations, including the United Arab Emirates”.
In a statement carried by the official news agency Wafa, Nabil Abu Rudeinah said the state of Palestine is keen on “maintaining brotherly relations with all Arab countries on the basis of mutual respect, with the necessity of the latter adhering to the Arab Peace Initiative”.
‘Betraying the cause’ Announced by US President Donald Trump on August 13, the UAE-Israeli normalisation agreement caught the PA by surprise, which then accused the UAE of betraying the Palestinian cause – long seen as a pan-Arab issue.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said more Arab countries will soon follow in the UAE’s steps, and Bahrain and Oman have both voiced support.
“The Palestinian cause has traditionally been a unifying theme for the Arab League, which this year appears to be more a cause for division, rendering the Arab League ever more irrelevant in managing the affairs of the Arab world,” said Andreas King, assistant professor of security studies at King’s College London.
The motion to be put forth by the Palestinian leadership will likely not be endorsed by a number of Gulf states, he added.
“While there might not be an immediate move by any other Arab state to normalise ties with Israel formally, there will be more exchanges and engagement with Israel, which is no longer tied to the Palestinian cause,” King told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media.
“For the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been relegated to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, which should not be an obstacle to a warming of bilateral ties with Israel.”
Marwa Fatafta, a policy member with the Palestinian policy network Al-Shabaka, agreed, saying geopolitical interests “trump the rights of Palestinians”.
“Many Gulf states have keen interest in formalising ties with Israel and the UAE-Israel was the ice-breaker,” she said. “Normalisation between Israel and Gulf states has already been in the making, and now it is just a matter of timing.
“What would probably come out from the Arab League is the usual recycled lip-service to the Palestinians,” she added.
The Arab League, in contrast to Abbas’s granted request to hold an emergency session in the aftermath of the US announcing Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan, refused to do the same once news of the UAE-Israel agreement was announced.
This led to Saeb Erekat, the secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Executive Committee, to call on Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit to condemn the UAE’s normalisation deal with Israel – or step down.
“If he is not able to issue a statement condemning the UAE-Israeli normalisation, he should resign,” Erekat told PalestineTV.
And while regional power Saudi Arabia has declared it will not normalise relations with Israel without securing Palestinian interests, Riyadh fell short of condemning the UAE’s decision.
“Saudi Arabia will verbally endorse the Palestinian cause, the issue of Jerusalem, and the Arab Peace Initiative,” King said. “However, it remains to be seen what Riyadh does in terms of action on the matter.”
The oil-rich kingdom could choose the opportunity to shore up support for the Arab Peace Initiative, King continued, while simultaneously not taking a solid stance against normalisation, thereby leaving the door open for individual Arab states to deal with Israel as they see fit.
“With the UAE as a leading Arab state already sacrificing the Palestinian cause to satisfy Emirati national interests with Israel, it will be hard to build firm support for the Arab Peace Initiative in this multilateral setting,” he said.
Fatafta said Saudi Arabia will stick to the Arab Peace Initiative plan, more for the sake of convenience, while at the same time cultivating warmer ties with Israel.
“Saudi Arabia indicated on number of occasions over the years that it has interest in cooperating with Israel especially with the growing threat from Iran,” she said.
“In fact, Saudi Arabia facilitated the normalisation deal between Israel and the UAE by opening its airspace for direct flights between the two countries.”
King Salman spoke to Donald Trump on phone following UAE’s decision to normalise ties with Israel in US-brokered deal.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz told United States President Donald Trump that the Gulf country wanted to see a fair and permanent solution for the Palestinians, which was the starting point for its 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, the kingdom’s state news agency reported on Monday.
The two men spoke by phone following a US-brokered accord last month under which the United Arab Emirates agreed to become the third Arab state after Egypt and Jordan to normalise ties with Israel.
King Salman told Trump that he appreciated US efforts to support peace and that Saudi Arabia wanted to see a fair and permanent solution to the Palestinian issue based on its Arab Peace Initiative.
Under the proposal, Arab nations have offered Israel normalised ties in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and site of its holiest shrines, does not recognise Israel.
A history of Arab-Israeli normalisation However, this month the kingdom said it would allow flights between UAE and Israel, including by Israeli aircraft, to use its airspace.
During the call, Trump told King Salman that he welcomed that decision, and that the two also discussed regional security, a White House spokesman said.
Palestinian issue Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is also a White House adviser, has said he hopes another Arab country normalises ties with within months.
No other Arab state has said so far it is considering following the UAE. Egypt and Jordan normalised ties decades ago.
King Salman’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Kushner discussed the need for the Palestinians and the Israelis to resume negotiations and reach a lasting peace after Kushner visited the UAE last month.
The UAE-Israel deal was met by overwhelming opposition among Palestinians who have condemned the move as a “stab in the back”.
On Sunday, leaders of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian Hamas group met to discuss the US push for diplomatic normalisation, the movement said.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniya and Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah movement, stressed the “stability” of the “axis of resistance” against Israel
Israeli PM announces move after Serbia and Kosovo agreed on historic pact at White House to normalise economic ties.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Serbia will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, becoming the first European country to follow the United States in making the move.
Most diplomatic missions in Israel have been in Tel Aviv as countries stayed neutral over the disputed city of Jerusalem until its status could be settled in an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
But in December 2017, US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the shifting the US embassy from Tel Aviv.
On Friday, Netanyahu revealed Serbia’s move, adding that the transfer will happen by July 2021.
“I thank my friend the president of Serbia … for the decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to transfer his embassy there,” Netanyahu said.
“I would like also to thank my friend President Trump for contributing to this achievement.”
News of the move by Serbia, not a member of the 27-nation EU, coincided with the announcement by Trump that former foes Serbia and Kosovo had agreed on an historic pact to normalise economic relations.
Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official slammed Serbia’s decision, saying it makes “Palestine a victim” of Trump’s re-election hopes.
“Palestine has become a victim of the electoral ambitions of President Trump, whose team would take any action, no matter how destructive for peace … to achieve his re-election,” said Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in a tweet.
“This, just like the UAE-Israel agreement [to normalise diplomatic ties], isn’t about Middle East Peace,” he added.
Israel seized control of East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it in moves never recognised by the international community.
It considers the city its undivided capital, but the Palestinian Authority (PA) sees the occupied eastern part of Jerusalem, including the Old City with its holy sites, as the capital of their future state.
The United Nations and the European Union, Israel’s top economic partner, say the city’s final status must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians, before which countries should not locate their embassies there.
Netanyahu also announced that Israel had set up diplomatic relations from Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
“Kosovo will become the first majority-Muslim country to open an embassy in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “As I’ve said in recent days – the circle of peace and recognition of Israel is expanding and more countries are expected to join.”
Disputed city Trump’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem three years ago triggered Palestinian outrage and a diplomatic shockwave.
So far, only Guatemala followed in his footsteps, also opening up its diplomatic mission in the holy city in May 2018.
Friday’s announcement also comes less than a month after Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalise ties under a US-brokered deal.
The agreement, expected to be signed at a White House ceremony in the coming weeks, would be Israel’s first with a Gulf nation, and the third with an Arab country after Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994).
The issue of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, includes Islam’s third holiest site – the golden Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
It is also home to the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews are allowed to pray, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried.
More than 200,000 Israeli settlers live in occupied East Jerusalem, which is home to about 300,000 Palestinians.
Head of Hamas political bureau said it will not back down from wanting to end the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army says its tanks have hit Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday after Palestinian balloon attacks across the border continued.
An early-morning military statement said there had been airborne explosive and incendiary attacks into southern Israel on Saturday.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from any of the incidents.
Palestinian sources said an Israeli artillery shell was fired towards a field control point east of Khan Younis, and another shell east of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.
According to the Israeli fire brigade, the fire bombs – crude devices fitted to balloons, inflated condoms or plastic bags inflated with helium – have triggered more than 400 blazes in southern Israel.
The Israeli army has carried out attacks on Gaza almost daily since August 6, along with further tightening a devastating blockade it has imposed on the Palestinian territory since 2007.
Under the new measures, it banned the entry of fuel for Gaza’s sole power plant, plunging it into darkness.
The Gaza Strip has a population of two million people, more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank.
The head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniya, said his movement – which controls the Gaza Strip – would not back down from wanting to end the Israeli blockade.
“Our decision and the decision of our people is to go ahead with ending this unjust siege in all its forms,” Haniya said in a statement issued by his office early on Sunday.
“The leadership of the movement is closely following the current situation in the Gaza Strip in terms of communications and mediation carried out by many parties to work to break and end the siege on the strip.”
An Egyptian delegation has been shuttling between the two sides to try to broker a renewal of an informal truce under which Israel committed to easing its 13-year blockade of Gaza in return for calm on the frontier between the two.
It was joined this week by Qatar’s Gaza envoy Mohammed al-Emadi who delivered the latest tranche of $30m in aid to the territory on Tuesday before holding talks with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv.
Sources close to the Qatari delegation said Israeli officials had told al-Emadi they were willing to end a punitive ban on fuel deliveries for Gaza’s power plant and ease their blockade if there was an end to the incendiary balloons.
Financial aid for the impoverished territory from gas-rich Qatar had been a significant component of the truce, first agreed in November 2018 and renewed several times since.
Under those terms, Israel had said it would take other measures to alleviate unemployment of more than 50 percent in the territory of some two million people. Those have yet to materialise.
Office of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in Gaza says agreement has been reached to ‘end aggression against our people’.
Hamas, the Palestinian group running the besieged Gaza Strip, has announced it has reached a Qatari-mediated deal to end the latest escalation of violence with Israel.
After talks with Qatari envoy Mohammed el-Emadi, “an understanding was reached to rein in the latest escalation and end [Israeli] aggression against our people”, the office of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said on Monday.
There was no immediate comment by Israel.
The Israeli army has carried out attacks on Gaza almost daily since August 6 in what it says is a response to the airborne incendiary devices and, less frequently, rockets launched into southern Israel.
The fire balloons are widely seen as an attempt by Hamas to improve the terms of an informal truce under which Israel committed to easing its 13-year-old crippling blockade in return for calm.
But so far, Israel’s response has been to tighten the blockade.
It has banned Gaza fishermen from going to sea and closed its goods crossing with the territory, prompting the closure of the Palestinian territory’s sole power plant for want of fuel.
What Hamas says about the agreement is that it will stop incendiary balloon launches as well as what it calls its night-time confusion operations where groups go along the fence and throw explosives and cause disruption,” said Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Jerusalem.
“In return, it says that Israel is undertaking to go back to the pre-escalation situation which means allowing fishermen out into the Mediterranean, easing the restriction on goods coming in and also presumably the restoration of fuel supplies to Gaza’s only power station.”
Monday’s announcement came amid a flurry diplomatic activity from Qatar whose envoy delivered the latest tranche of $30m in aid Gaza before holding talks with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv.
Sources close to the Qatari delegation said the Israelis told al-Emadi they were willing to resume fuel deliveries for the power plant and ease their blockade – if there was an end to the fire balloons.
Financial aid for the impoverished territory from gas-rich Qatar has been a major component of the latest truce first agreed in November 2018 and renewed several times since.
Mediation efforts have grown more urgent in recent days as authorities in Gaza have detected the first cases of local transmission of the coronavirus. Hamas has imposed a lockdown in the coastal enclave, which is home to two million Palestinians.
Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas from expanding its arsenal, but critics view it as a form of collective punishment.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars and several smaller battles since the closure was imposed.
The restrictions have pushed Gaza’s economy to the brink of collapse, leaving more than half the population unemployed, and years of war and isolation have left the healthcare system ill-equipped to cope with a major outbreak.
Palestinians in Ramallah demonstrate against Israel’s plan to annex a third of the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley.
But Israeli military and intelligence officials have warned the move could cause an uprising in the West Bank, which would be a grave security risk for Israel.
Furthermore, the plan has been met with condemnation by the Palestinian public, their leaders and the global community alike.
‘Another catastrophe’ “I’m angry because this is history repeating itself,” said Zeina Mustafa, a 20-year-old student from Ramallah.
“The annexation plan is another Nakba [catastrophe] and Naksa [day of setback],” she added, referring to the 1948 Palestinian exodus that saw more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs expelled from their homes and an Israeli state declared, and the 1967 Six-Day War after that saw Israel take control of the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt.
For Belal Gaith, a 40-year-old resident of Ramallah, the annexation plan would push Palestinians further under a state of occupation and military rule.
“As soon as the annexation plan is declared, it will be the end of the Oslo Accords,” he said, referring to the 1993 agreement which established the Palestinian Authority (PA) and gave it limited powers.
“We can potentially lose every single bit of our lands and live as prisoners under Israeli rule,” he added.
In the lead up to the anticipated declaration, the head of the PA and Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, said the authority had terminated all of its agreements with Israel and the United States amid Israel’s push for annexation.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh warned if Israel goes ahead with the plan, Palestinians would unilaterally declare a state along the pre-1967 borders.
A Palestinian demonstrator returns a tear gas canister during a protest against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El near Ramallah July
A key criticism of the plan is it would prevent Palestinians from accessing their agricultural land and water resources in the fertile Jordan Valley – known as the “bread basket” for Palestinians. The plan could destroy farmers’ export businesses and deprive them of their source of income.
Israel’s Jordan Valley Annexation explained “Israel is creating an environment in which the Palestinians cannot grow in their lands and business,” said Walid Assaf, a Palestinian minister and chairman of the Commission Against the Wall and Settlements.
“The crux of this conflict has been the land and Israel’s helping Jewish settlers take over it and expel the Palestinians in the process.”
Over the past few years, Palestinian and Israeli NGOs have reported an increase in the construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jewish settler-only roads that connect them with Israel.
The structures have further carved up Palestinian territories and added to the disjointed nature of cities, villages and towns.
According to Assaf, Israel has already taken practical steps to annex the areas included in the plan, with the Jewish state allegedly building three new settlements in recent months; two near Nablus and another near Hebron.
Only a formality Still, many Palestinians believe the plan is only a formality and a de facto Israeli occupation of their land has been under way for many years.
“Israel’s annexation plan has been in process since 1967,” said Salah Khawaja, coordinator of an anti-occupation campaign called the Popular Committee to Resist the Wall and the Settlements.
“Israel has since built settlements and the wall. And so, annexation has been ongoing for a long time,” he added, as he stood among the crowd of demonstrators in Ramallah.
Although the plan does not aim to annex occupied East Jerusalem, which the Palestinian Authority sees as the capital of a future Palestinian state, the international community, including the United Nations and the European Union, have said it threatens to sabotage any peace agreement or two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“The plan will be the final nail in the coffin. It will end any chance for a future Palestinian state and our right to self-determination,” said Assaf.
“It will also restrict Palestinian lives in a way like never before. Making it impossible for us to build our lives or dream for the future.”
This is history repeating itself. The annexation plan is another Nakba [catastrophe] and Naksa [day of setback].