Former Israeli foreign minister calls on Netanyahu to abandon West Bank annexation plan

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni added his voice to those calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to abandon plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, saying he would close the door to peace with the Palestinians. and would threaten the idea of ​​Israel as a Jewish democratic state.

"The idea of ​​partial annexation that would keep Palestinians in enclaves within the West Bank surrounded by Israeli territories [is] it's not sustainable, "she said in an interview with Skype on CBC.


"I prefer to keep the path of peace open and not take measures that will take us all … to the point of no return."

Livni was Israel's main negotiator in peace negotiations with the Palestinians brokered by the United States in 2013/14 and held eight cabinet cards, in addition to serving as the opposition leader.

Netanyahu pledges to annex, or in his words, extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan valley and Jewish settlements in the West Bank for several months, encouraged by the peace plan of U.S. President Donald Trump.


Presented in January, it would see 30% of the West Bank under permanent Israeli control, giving Palestinians limited autonomy in the remaining lands.

WATCH Tzipi Livni says he believes the annexation of Palestinian territory is wrong for Israel's future:

Tzipi Livni says he believes the annexation of Palestinian territory is wrong for Israel's future. 0:48

The Palestinians rejected the plan and critics say it would end any prospect of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu says the plan simply recognizes the reality on the ground.

"Israeli law enforcement in areas of Judea and Samaria [the Biblical names used by the Israeli government for the West Bank] that it will remain part of Israel in any future peace agreement will not delay the cause of peace, "he said in a virtual speech to American Christians united by Israel a few days ago.

"This will promote peace."


WATCH Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the annexation will advance peace:

Benjamin Netanyahu said the annexation will promote peace during a speech at a virtual summit on June 28. 0:42

Livni argues that this will undermine Israel's long-term security, increasing the likelihood of a "one state" scenario.

"We believe that it is necessary to maintain the Jewish majority," said Livni. She said that without the possibility of expressing their voting rights in a state of their own, more Palestinians are talking about a state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and demanding equal voting rights.

"This would not be an Israeli Jewish democratic state. This will be a binational state with ongoing conflict, without responding to national aspirations for [either side.]"

There are an estimated 430,000 Jewish settlers living in the West Bank, according to Israeli rights group Peace Now, and 2.7 million Palestinians living under a combination of some Palestinian civilian rule and Israeli military control.

Washington support

The settlements are illegal under international law, having been built on land captured and occupied in 1967. Israel does not accept this, saying that the territory is in dispute.

Proponents of Netanyahu's plans argue that time is essential to move forward, given the unprecedented support offered by the Trump administration.

Trump recognized Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights in 1981 and Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Palestinians expect East Jerusalem, officially annexed by Israel in 1980 and now home to more than 200,000 Jewish settlers, according to Peace Now, to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

"What Israel can afford to do now with American support is not something that can be postponed indefinitely," Professor Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, said in a recent publication.

Children watch a rally through a window in Gaza city on Wednesday, while Palestinians call for a day of anger to protest Israel’s plan to annex Israeli-occupied parts of the West Bank. (Mohammed Salem / Reuters)

"Israel must take advantage of this moment to apply its law to the Jordan valley and to the outskirts of Jerusalem, in order to guarantee Israeli security for generations."

Netanyahu has set July 1 as the target date for anticipating annexation plans. But on Wednesday, a Netanyahu confidant confirmed the plan wouldn't start on July 1st, and said the authorities are still working on the details with their American colleagues. The confidant said he expected the annexation to take place later this month.

Growing international opposition

Meanwhile, international opposition to Netanyahu's plan has grown.

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote an article for the front page of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

"As a friend, admirer and defender of Israel, I am afraid that these proposals will fail in their goal of securing Israel's borders and are contrary to Israel's long-term interests," wrote Johnson.

If the annexation continues, he said that "the UK will not recognize any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between the two parties".

The front page of the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth included a story written by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning Israel against the annexation of the West Bank. (CBC)

Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that "the annexation would constitute the most serious violation of international law" and called on Israel to abandon its plans.

More than 1,000 European lawmakers, including 240 from the United Kingdom, have also published an open letter calling on their governments to act to prevent Israel from continuing.

Hugh Lovatt, a Middle East expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the European Union was trying to propose some form of action.

"Not only in terms of preserving the two-state solution, but also in terms of defending the international legal order," he said.

Jordan warned of the consequences

Jordan, just one of two countries to have peace treaties with Israel in the Middle East and Egypt, has warned of dire consequences if West Bank annexation occurs.

And the Gulf Arab countries have said that the recent warming in their relations with Israel could be compromised.

Avichaim Cohen, a lawyer at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem, said the only opinion that really counts on Netanyahu is that of the White House.

Given the lack of a definitive US signal, Cohen believes Netanyahu can proceed with caution.

A Palestinian protester is executed during a protest against Israel's plan to annex parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank near the Jewish settlement in Beit El, near Ramallah, on Wednesday. (Mohamad Torokman / Reuters)

"I don't think it will be the 30% of the West Bank that the Trump plan is talking about," he said. "It will probably be something more symbolic, like specific Jewish settlements near Jerusalem. Something like that."

A May poll from the Democracy Institute found that 52% of Israeli Israelis supported Netanyahu's annexation plans.

& # 39; Part of my responsibility & # 39;

Livni said she decided to be more sincere on the issue, despite retiring from politics because she fears that there is a perception abroad that all Israelis support the annexation.

"I felt that part of my responsibility is to say no. There are about half of Israeli society who are against it."

Mobile homes are on a hill in the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on Wednesday. (Amir Cohen / Reuters)

She said she would like to see Palestinians engage in negotiations and acknowledges that successive rounds of peace talks, including hers, have failed.

But that does not shake her conviction that the annexation would be a historical error.

"I believe that taking the right steps to keep the road open, and it is still open, is the right thing to do for now, even if peace is not just around the corner," she said.

"And it is not, unfortunately."

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