The Elders Issue Scathing Rebuke of Israel's Trump-Approved West Bank Annexation Plan

President Donald Trump talks with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jared Kushner in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017. (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images)

The Elders Issue Scathing Rebuke of Israel's Trump-Approved West Bank Annexation Plan

"The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians can only ever be solved by finding a solution that guarantees peace, security, rights, and dignity to both peoples. Unilaterally seizing territory and ignoring international law achieves precisely the opposite."

A group of former global leaders known as The Elders on Monday decried Israel's new West Bank annexation plan, calling the proposal an affront to international law that further dims the prospect of regional peace and represents "a unilateral repudiation of the two-state solution."

The new statement from The Elders, an independent group founded by the late Nelson Mandela, is the latest example of an increasing chorus of repudiation of the Trump administration-approved plan to annex large swathes of the occupied West Bank that advanced as part of a coalition deal forged between Benjamin Netanyahu and centrist Benny Gantz. The annexation could happen as soon as July.

Agence France-Pressereported:

The Netanyahu-Gantz agreement includes a framework for implementing annexations outlined in President Trump's controversial plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, unveiled at the White House in January.

Fulfulling that proposal would be disastrous, said The Elders, instead calling for "meaningful dialogue" to kickstart a new peace initiative.

"The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians can only ever be solved by finding a solution that guarantees peace, security, rights, and dignity to both peoples," said Mary Robinson, chair of The Elders and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"Unilaterally seizing territory and ignoring international law achieves precisely the opposite. Such a move betrays both the interests of Israeli citizens and the ideals of the State's founders," said Robinson.

As the Associated Press reported last week:

The Palestinians claim the entire West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as the heartland of an independent state. Annexing chunks of this territory would likely deal a death blow to faded Palestinian hopes of a two-state solution. Annexation also would anger the international community, which overwhelmingly supports Palestinian statehood.

Fear of harsh international censure might help explain why Netanyahu hasn't tried to annex occupied territory in his years in power--even while boosting Jewish settlement expansion there.

Those calculations gradually changed after Donald Trump was elected U.S. president in 2016. Surrounded by a team of pro-settlement advisers, Trump delivered diplomatic gifts that Netanyahu never could have imagined under previous administrations.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to meet with Netanyahu this week, with a focus of the trip expected to be the annexation plan, reported the AP. From the wire service:

Alone among most governments, the Trump administration has said it will support the annexation of West Bank territory claimed by the Palestinians for an eventual state as long as Israel agrees to enter peace talks with the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority has firmly rejected the so-called "vision for peace," as has the Arab League.

"If the joint mapping of Palestinian lands to be seized by the Israeli government continues, the standing of the United States in the international community will be further damaged. The West Bank belongs to Palestine, and any changes should be mutually agreed upon," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, an Elder Emeritus.

According to Ban Ki-moon, deputy chair of The Elders and former Secretary-General of the U.N., the plan should spur global outrage.

"The principles of international law are the bedrock of our global order," he said. "They provide a framework for defending rights and exercising power that is crucial to all global challenges. Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank would not only be an act of aggressive folly, it would have a destructive influence on global rights and norms. I call on the whole world to speak out against this damaging agenda."

Other groups added their voices to the chorus of outrage.

The annexation plan, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Holy Land Churches said last week, "raises serious and catastrophic questions about the feasibility of any peaceful agreement to end the decades' long conflict, one that continues to cost many innocent lives as part of a vicious cycle of human tragedy and injustice."

"Annexation is not in line with international law," EU foreign policy spokesperson Peter Stano told press Monday. "If it goes ahead, the EU will act accordingly."

The International Criminal Court, meanwhile, last week suggested it is the target of "smear campaign" as a result of its ongoing probe into possible war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza.

The White House's plan included a provision that Palestinians must take "no action, and shall dismiss all pending actions, against the State of Israel, the United States, and any of their citizens before the International Criminal Court" and other tribunals.

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