UK PM Johnson warns Israel of illegal West Bank move

What happened: In response to a question asked yesterday in the House of Commons about possible sanctions on Israel over the proposed annexationPrime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I believe that what is proposed by Israel would amount to a breach of international law. We have strongly objected. We believe profoundly in a two-state solution and we will continue to make that case.”

  • King Abdullah II of Jordan addressed the US Congress by video conference yesterday and warned that Israel’s plan to annex territory would jeopardise the stability of the Middle East and sabotage the chances of attaining peace and security in the region.
  • The UAE’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash addressed the American Jewish Committee’s Virtual Global Forum yesterday. Gargash struck a different tone, saying, “The UAE is clearly against any annexation as is being proposed by the current Israeli government. Having said that, that is the political domain. Do I have to really look at all the other domains and make them almost static because of the political domain? We have tried that, as a group of Arab countries, over many years, and I don’t think it has really led to what we want in terms of bringing stability to the region … I think we can come to a point where we come to a given Israeli government … and say, we disagree with you on this, we don’t think it’s a good idea, but at the same time there are areas, such a COVID, technology and other things, where we can actually work together.”

Context: The US expects that any plan in the West Bank is supported by the Blue and White party within the government. This week there have been two meetings between Netanyahu, Gantz, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. The parties have not yet reached an agreement about the extent and scope of any decision.

  • Netanyahu has yet to declare his full intentions. In a meeting with group of former high-ranking IDF officers on Monday, Netanyahu did not rule out the possibility that applying Israeli law to the West Bank would be implemented in stages.
  • Blue and White ministers have begun to speak out. Agriculture Minister Alon Schuster told Army Radio yesterday, “I will not vote in favour of applying sovereignty as a unilateral act that is not part of the Trump plan … the prime minister should come to an agreement with Blue and White, I know what principles guide us. The Trump peace plan has very important components that conform to what we think — separation from the Palestinians, the Jordan River as the eastern border, keeping the settlement blocs as part of Israel, and our possibility of keeping Israel a Jewish and democratic state through international consensus. I can’t vote in favour of a unilateral action that will undermine regional stability.”
  • According to Israeli media reports, Netanyahu is not worried about Israel’s relations with Arab countries being damaged and believes that any European punitive measures will not be significant.

Looking ahead: It is possible that a government declaration could be delayed beyond 1 July.

  • The Israeli-US mapping committee has held numerous meetings but has not yet reach an agreement on a final map. A White House spokesperson confirmed that the committee is still working and the mapping process hasn’t been completed yet.
  • The US expectation that the plan is accepted by the Blue and White leadership could also delay any announcement.
  • Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi are also thought to be pushing for a delay to allow the security establishment and the Foreign Ministry to be given sufficient time to prepare, both on the ground and diplomatically in the international arena.

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