German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Wednesday that Israel’s annexation of the occupied West Bank will be a violation of international law, Anadolu has reported. Maas made his comment at a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi during a visit to the occupation state.
The German official is the first European diplomat to visit Israel since the formation of its new government last month. He did not refer to specific European responses to the annexation decision if it goes ahead. The aim of his visit, he explained, “Is to learn more about Israel’s plans.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in May that his government intends to annex the Jordan Valley and all of the illegal settlement blocs in the West Bank early next month.
“There are currently important regional opportunities, most notably US President Donald Trump’s peace initiative,” said former Chief of the General Staff Ashkenazi, referring to the deal of the century. “We expect the international community to make clear to the Palestinians that their refusal to participate will not serve Palestinian interests.”
Although Maas was scheduled to visit the occupied Palestinian territories, the Israeli authorities informed him that if he went to Ramallah, he would have to be quarantined because of the coronavirus. Nevertheless, he will speak with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on the phone.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is designated as occupied territory under international law. As a result, all Jewish settlements as well as the planned annexation are illegal.
Palestinian officials have threatened to abolish bilateral agreements with Israel if it goes ahead with the annexation, arguing that it will further undermine the two-state solution.
Annexation is part of Trump’s “peace plan” which was announced on 28 January. It refers to Jerusalem as “Israel’s undivided capital” and recognises Israeli sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank.
The plan also envisages the establishment of a Palestinian state in the form of non-contiguous enclaves linked by bridges and tunnels. They have been likened to the “Bantustans” created by the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
Palestinian officials say that under the US plan, Israel will annex 30 to 40 per cent of the occupied West Bank, including all of East Jerusalem.