Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends the 30th Arab Summit in Tunis, Tunisia March 31, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ZOUBEIR SOUISSI)
The Trump administration will allow Israel to annex portions of the West Bank and split it politically from the Gaza Strip, so that the coastal enclave can be a state of its own, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday.
Speaking at the Arab League summit in Tunisia, he said that: “What is coming from the US is more dangerous and serious. The US will tell Israel: ‘annex part of the Palestinian lands and grant self-rule to what’s left of the land, and give the Gaza Strip a state so that Hamas can play there.’
“The US administration’s decision is to destroy the Arab Peace Plan, and constitutes a dramatic change from the positions of previous US administrations,” Abbas continued.
The Palestinian leader spoke in advance of the anticipated roll out of what US President Donald Trump is calling the “plan of the century” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
His comments, however, also came one week after the historic decision by Trump to officially recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights
. Israel annexed the area from Syria in 1981, after capturing the territory during the defensive Six Day War in 1967.
The Arab League on Sunday condemned
the US for this recognition and said it planned to seek a UN Security Council resolution against the move.
The US declaration on the Golan has sparked speculation that the Trump administration’s next move would be to support Israel annexing at least portions of Area C in the West Bank, where all of the Israeli settlements are located.
Former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk tweeted on Sunday: “So by recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan, Trump is helping Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] get reelected, which will help the right-wing annex the West Bank, which will lead to pressure from his base to recognize that too – which will doom his peace plan and Israel.”
The UN General Assembly and Security Council, as well as international law in general, have held that the territory is illegally occupied.
In written testimony to Congress last year, legal expert Eugene Kontorovich of the Northwestern University School of Law explained that there were exceptions to that principle. He listed the cases of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s sovereignty over North and South Vietnam after an aggressive war, and India’s annexation of the Portuguese territory of Goa.
But the UN and its Security Council have not made such an exception for Israel. After the Six Day War, the council passed resolution 242, which affirmed the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” as it related to territory Israel captured in that war. The resolution called for the withdrawal of the IDF “from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
Israel has since withdrawn from Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, annexed eastern Jerusalem and the Golan, and currently maintains military control over the West Bank.
The Trump administration’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan pushes back at the UNSC’s resolutions 242 and 497, which deemed Israel’s annexation of the Golan to be illegal. The administration argued that Israeli sovereignty in the Golan was necessary for the country’s security, particularly given Iran’s military presence in Syria.
Just one day later, at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman hinted at the link between the Golan Heights security argument and the West Bank. In speaking of the importance of pushing forward with a peace plan, Friedman asked: “Can we leave this to an administration that might not understand the existential risk to Israel if Judea and Samaria are overcome by terrorists, in the manner that befell the Gaza Strip after the IDF withdrew from this territory?”
During the last four years, settler leaders and right-wing politicians have pushed forward numerous annexation initiatives, including for the Gush Etzion Region and the Ma’aleh Adumim bloc. But if the argument is based on security, then Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Elhayani said he believes that the application of sovereignty to his region – situated between Jerusalem and Jordan – would be the logical first step for Israel’s next government.
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