The Israeli authorities must immediately abandon plans to further “annex” territory in the occupied West Bank which breach international laws and exacerbate decades of systematic human rights violations against Palestinians, Amnesty International said on the day the Israeli cabinet is due to begin its deliberations on the plans.
Amnesty International is also calling on the international community to take firm action against the “annexation” proposals and illegal Israeli settlements in occupied territory.
“International law is crystal clear on this matter – annexation is unlawful. Israel’s continued pursuit of this policy further illustrates its cynical disregard for international law. Such policies do not change the legal status of the territory under international law and its inhabitants as occupied nor remove Israel’s responsibilities as the occupying power – rather it points to the ‘law of the jungle’ which should not have a place in our world today,” said Saleh Higazi, deputy regional director for Amnesty Middle East and North Africa.
“Members of the international community must enforce international law and restate that “annexation” of any part of the occupied West Bank is null and void. They must also work to immediately stop the construction or expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and related infrastructure in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a first step towards removing Israeli civilians living in such settlements.
Under a deal to form a coalition government in April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and political rival Benny Gantz agreed that a cabinet and parliament deliberations on the domestic process of “annexing” parts of the occupied West Bank, that include Israeli settlements and the area of the Jordan Valley, could begin as of 1 July.
Annexation is the claim to acquire territory by force and is a flagrant violation of international law. Such a step by Israel would violate the UN Charter, jus cogens norms of international law, and obligations under international humanitarian law. The prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force is enshrined as a fundamental principle in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.
Under domestic Israeli law, moves towards further “annexation” of Palestinian territory would mean a continuation of Israeli settlement expansion. It would also further entrench policies of institutionalised discrimination and mass human rights violations that Palestinians face in the OPT resulting from the occupation.
According to reports, the Israeli proposal could include as much as 33% of the total area of West Bank.
Recently, dozens of UN experts have voiced concerns that the proposed annexation plan would create a “21st century apartheid”.
Israel’s policy of settling its civilians in occupied Palestinian territory and displacing the local Palestinian population continues to contravene fundamental rules of international humanitarian law. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” It also prohibits the “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory”.
Transferring the occupying power’s civilians into the occupied territory is a war crime. Furthermore, the settlements and associated infrastructure are not temporary, do not benefit Palestinians and do not serve the legitimate security needs of the occupying power. Settlements entirely depend on the large-scale appropriation and/or destruction of Palestinian private and public property which are not militarily necessary.
“Settlements are created with the sole purpose of permanently establishing Jewish Israelis on occupied land; this is a war crime under international law and “annexation” has no bearing on this legal determination,” said Saleh Higazi
On 20 April, following Israel’s third elections in 10 months, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz formed a coalition government under a unity deal. The deal included an agreement which would allow Israel’s government to start the domestic process of “annexing” parts of the occupied West Bank that include Israeli settlements and the area of the Jordan Valley. Israel’s “annexation” plans follow the announcement by US President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” in January 2020 which proposed areas of the occupied West Bank be annexed by Israel.
Amnesty International has made it clear that the Trump Administration’s plan would serve only to worsen human rights violations and enshrine the entrenched impunity that has fuelled decades of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other grave violations.
The international community should also reject the so-called “deal of the century”, and any other proposal seeking to undermine the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Amnesty also calls on governments to offer their full political and practical support to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as it decides on its jurisdiction over the “situation in Palestine”.