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April 23, 2020 12:14 pm

Israel Fires Back at EU Over Condemnation of Potential West Bank Annexation

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A general view picture shows houses in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, in the West Bank, Feb. 15, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad / File.

Israel and the European Union traded barbs on Thursday after the EU’s foreign affairs chief denounced the potential annexation of parts of the West Bank as a “serious violation of international law.”

Momentum has been building for several months in favor of the annexation of part of the West Bank accorded to Israel under the Trump administration’s proposed peace plan. According to the terms of Israel’s new unity government agreement, a vote on the issue can take place later this year.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the matter, saying, “As for the annexation of the West Bank, the Israelis will ultimately make those decisions. That’s an Israeli decision.”

Possibly in response to Pompeo, EU High Representative Josep Borrell issued a statement on Thursday that praised Israeli-EU cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus, but added that the EU had examined the terms of the new Israeli coalition agreement and “the European Union’s position on the status of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 remains unchanged.”

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“In line with international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the European Union does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank,” he said.

“The European Union reiterates that any annexation would constitute a serious violation of international law,” Borrell added. “The European Union will continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly.”

Israel’s public broadcaster Kan reported that, shortly after, Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz fired back at the EU, saying, “It is unfortunate to read that Joseph Burrell, who claims to be trusted with the EU’s foreign relations, chooses to welcome the new government of a central partner of the EU in this way, and prefers to see the relationship between Israel and the EU through the prism of the pandemic and the ‘status of the territories.’”

“Given the depth of the relationship and in light of the fact that this announcement did not receive the support of the EU member states yesterday, we wonder which policies the honorable gentleman is choosing to represent, and not for the first time,” Katz added.

Borrell attempted in February to push through a joint EU resolution condemning annexation, but it was blocked by six countries, including the Czech Republic and Italy.

Katz thanked the EU countries that opposed the latest statement, which again prevented the text from being officially adopted by the EU.

“These countries recognize the value of relations with Israel and we will continue to promote relations between Israel and Europe together,” Katz said.

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