The European Union (EU)’s foreign policy chief has warned Israel against acting on its “unilateral” decision to annex parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, saying the 27-nation bloc will not recognize any such changes to the 1967 borders.
In a statement released on Monday, Josep Borrell said the EU viewed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s push for annexation with “grave concern.”
“International law is a fundamental pillar of the international rules-based order. In this respect, the EU and its member states recall that they will not recognize any changes to the 1967 borders unless agreed by Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.
“We strongly urge Israel to refrain from any unilateral decision that would lead to the annexation of any occupied Palestinian territory and would be, as such, contrary to international law,” the top EU diplomat added.
A key campaign promise of Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party in recent Israeli elections was imposing Israel’s “sovereignty” over Israeli settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank.
A coalition deal that Netanyahu recently signed with his chief rival, Benny Gantz, allows the cabinet to begin moving ahead with the annexation bid on July 1.
Presenting his new cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel’s law should be extended over the West Bank areas.
“The truth is, and everyone knows it, that the hundreds of thousands of settlers in Judea and Samaria will always stay put in any future deal,” he said, referring to the occupied West Bank by its biblical name.
Elsewhere in his statement, Borrell expressed the EU’s willingness to help restart Israeli-Palestinian talks, adding that “the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the future capital for both states, is the only way to ensure sustainable peace and stability in the region.”
Borrell had said Friday that the European nations “must work to discourage any possible initiative towards annexation” and such a strategy will require that states reach out to Israel, the US, the Palestinians and Arab partners “using all channels that the EU and the member states have.”
The resolution of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict “remains a priority and it is one of the strategic interests of the European Union,” he told a press conference in Brussels after a virtual meeting with EU foreign ministers on the matter.
Netanyahu’s US-backed plan to consolidate Israel’s occupation of Palestine has been met with harsh criticism from almost the entire international community, including its close allies.
Several member states of the EU — Tel Aviv’s largest trading partner — have raised the possibility of taking punitive measures in a bid to deter Israel from its new land grab bid.