An independent UN human rights expert warned yesterday that the new Israeli coalition government’s plan to proceed with annexing significant parts of the occupied West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, will create “a cascade of bad human rights consequences”.
“Israel’s decision to unilaterally march ahead with the planned annexation on July 1 undermines human rights in the region, and would be a severe body blow to the rules-based international order,” said Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967. It would also further undermine any remaining prospect for a just and negotiated settlement, he said.
“If Israel’s annexation plans proceed, what would be left of the West Bank would become a Palestinian Bantustan, an archipelago of disconnected islands of territory, completely surrounded and divided up by Israel and unconnected to the outside world,” the Special Rapporteur said.
“The plan would crystalize a 21st century apartheid, leaving in its wake the demise of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Legally, morally, politically, this is entirely unacceptable.”
Human rights violations arising from Israeli occupation would only intensify after the annexation, Lynk said. “Already, we are witnessing forced evictions and displacement, land confiscation and alienation, settler violence, the appropriation of natural resources, and the imposition of a two-tiered system of unequal political, social and economic rights based on ethnicity.”
Annexation has been strictly prohibited under international law since the adoption of the Charter of the United Nations in 1945. Drawing from the bitter lessons of two world wars fought within a generation, the international community outlawed annexation because it generates conflict, vast human suffering, political instability, economic ruin and systemic discrimination. Since 1967, the UN Security Council has affirmed the principle of “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory” by force or war on numerous occasions with specific reference to Israel’s occupation.
The Special Rapporteur expressed deep alarm that Israel’s annexation plans are being supported and facilitated by the United States. “On many fronts, the US was a positive force in the post-war years for the creation of our modern system of international law. It understood that a strong network of rights and responsibilities was the best path to global peace and prosperity. Now, it is actively endorsing, and participating in, a flagrant violation of international law. Its legal duty is to isolate perpetrators of human rights violations, not abet them.”
Lynk said the United Nations and its member states could no longer just offer criticism without consequences. “The looming annexation is a political litmus test for the international community. This annexation will not be reversed through rebukes, nor will the 53-year-old occupation die of old age,” the Special Rapporteur said.
“As I stated in March, the international community should review its extensive menu of sanctions and countermeasures to stem this march towards further illegality. Settlement products should not enter the international marketplace. Agreements, existing and proposed, with Israel should be reviewed. The current investigations at the International Criminal Court should be supported,” the UN human rights expert underscored.
“There has to be a cost to the defiance of international law,” the Special Rapporteur said. “Only this can compel the Israeli political leadership to do the right thing.”