A group of prominent former world leaders known as The Elders yesterday called on European leaders to take a firm stand on Israel’s threats to annex occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank.
In letters to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, The Elders underscored the damage annexation would cause not only to any hopes of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also to global respect for the rule of law.
Founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, The Elders warned, “The absence of any direct military and legal moves towards annexation on 1 July – the deadline unilaterally declared by Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu – should not be taken as grounds for complacency. Annexation of any part of the West Bank, including illegal settlement blocs, would constitute a flagrant breach of international law.”
Netanyahu said he would start on July 1 actual implementation of annexation of the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea and the settlements in the occupied West Bank, for an area that totals more than 30 percent of the West Bank where the Palestinians hope to establish their future state. However, the deadline passed without any concrete action on the ground.
Annexation “is fundamentally contrary to the long term interests of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples. [It] will not dampen future Palestinian demands for rights and self-determination, but destroying hopes in a two-state compromise will increase the risks of future violence in one of the most combustible areas in the world”, the Elders warned in their appeal to Europe’s leaders.
They called on the EU leaders to consider suspending the bloc’s Association Agreement with Israel if annexation does go ahead in any form, and recalled the UK’s historical and abiding responsibility to the region as the colonial Mandate holder in pre-1948 Palestine.
The Elders also reiterated their support for human rights defenders and civil society activists in Israel and Palestine, whose voices need to be protected and amplified at this challenging time.
The Elders include figures such as Mary Robinson, first woman president of Ireland, who is also chair of the Elders, Ban Ki-moon, former United Nations Secretary General, who is also deputy chair of the Elders, Gro Harlem Brundtland, first woman prime minister of Norway, Zeid Raad Al-Hussein, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, among others.