A controversial plan

Friday, 2019-09-13 17:14:05
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, Israel September 10, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO - Arab countries in the Middle East simultaneously strongly criticised the new move of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex the Jordan Valley, a key part of the West Bank, if he wins a closely contested election just a week away. The international community is concerned that this Israeli plan will escalate tensions in the region, threatening to completely bring down the Middle East peace process.

The public opinion is stirring up after the Israeli leader’s public announcement his plan to expand Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea. In an effort to re-elect for another term, the Israeli PM issued a statement just before the election scheduled for September 17. According to him, it would be a historical step if Israel imposed sovereignty over the occupied territory in the West Bank. He even vowed to begin annexing West Bank settlements if he wins national elections next week.

The statement by the Israeli leader sparked heated controversy between Israel and Palestine, threatening to undermine any chance of progress towards Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Jordan Valley, accounting for nearly 30% of the West Bank which was occupied by Israel in a 1967 war. This 2,400 km2 valley is currently home to some 53,000 Palestinians. There are also dozens of Palestinian farms as well as open areas that the Palestinian Authority has sought to develop for solar energy projects and industrial zones.

Immediately after the Israeli Prime Minister announced his plan, Palestine voiced strong opposition. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned that all peace agreements will end if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moves to annex the occupied Jordan Valley in the West Bank. The Palestinian leader asserted that Palestine has the right to defend its rights and achieve its goals by all available means.

Palestine asserted that the Jordan Valley was indispensable for an independent state in the future. The future protection of the Palestinian State's control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is irreversible and the Palestinians have fought for decades for their aspiration for peace and independence. Reyad al-Malki, the minister of foreign affairs in the Palestinian Authority called on the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel following the recent remarks of the Israeli PM. He said that “this is a clear disregard to the resolutions of the United Nations and its institutions, and the countries that are keen to achieve peace, in accordance with the principle of a two-state solution.”

Recent moves by Israel have also faced protests from the Arab states in the region. Many countries have warned of the serious consequences of actions that hinder the peace process between Israel and Palestine. Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo condemned the plan as “a dangerous development and a new Israeli aggression by declaring the intention to violate the international law”.

UN chief Antonio Guterres warned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex the Jordan Valley and settlements in the West Bank if re-elected would violate international law. “They would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations and regional peace, while severely undermining the viability of the two-state solution,” he said. The EU made it clear that Israel's policy of settlement construction and expansion, including in East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law and its continuation, and actions taken in this context undermine the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for lasting peace. Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have said that the Israeli PM's commitment could escalate tensions in the region.

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill over the past years. The international community has tried to promote confidence restoration measures to bring the two conflicting parties back to the negotiating table. However, moves related to settlements as well as the policies that Israel is enforcing over its occupied territories in the West Bank have threatened to push the Middle East peace process to the brink of collapse, negatively impacting the stability of the region.