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Germany: Israel's West Bank annexation plans are illegal

July 1, 2020

The German parliament has called on Israel to halt its plans to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank. However, it has ruled out the use of sanctions against Israel.

An Israeli flag in the Jordan Valley
Image: DW/T. Krämer

Germany called on Israel not to annex the West Bank on Wednesday, saying the plans were "in contradiction with international law."

The motion was brought in the Bundestag by the three parties in Chancellor Angela Merkel's broad coalition and was approved without opposing votes. All parliamentary groups, aside from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, warned that Israel's plans to annex parts of the West Bank would jeopardize Israel's security and hopes of a two-state solution.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the plan threatened the stability of the entire Middle East.

"Peace cannot be achieved by unilateral steps," Maas said.

In a dissenting voice, the AfD's Anton Friesen said the annexation was in Israel's national interest.

Read more: What will Israel's West Bank annexation plans mean for the region?

No sanctions

However, lawmakers said threatening Israel with sanctions over the matter would have "no constructive effect." 

The move, taken just as Germany takes over the EU presidency, greatly reduces the chances of European Union sanctions as it requires unanimous support from EU member states.

The document said, "Discussions on unilateral sanctions or threats of sanctions have no constructive effect" on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

West Bank: Living with Uncertainty

Plans pushed back

Israel was due to begin annexing settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley on July 1, but the US-backed plans have been pushed back. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said talks with his security chiefs were ongoing.

Annexation forms part of the plans of US President Donald Trump's administration, which also includes the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state with a capital outside of Jerusalem. Palestinians have firmly rejected this plan. 

The EU has also strongly opposed the US plan, mounting a diplomatic campaign against the project. Germany's Maas traveled to Israel to raise concerns about the plans. 

Also on Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said any Israeli annexation would be a violation of international law and would have consequences.

"Annexation of Palestinian territories, whatever the perimeters, would seriously throw into question the parameters to resolve the conflict," Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing. "An annexation decision could not be left without consequences and we are examining different options at a national level and also in coordination with our main European partners." 

The UK chimed in as well, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying annexation would violate international law and harm Israel's drive to improve relations with the Arab world.

"Annexation would represent a violation of international law," Johnson said in an opinion piece for Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's top-selling daily.

"Annexation would put in jeopardy the progress that Israel has made in improving relationships with the Arab and Muslim world," Johnson wrote, calling for justice and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Read more: How will Arab states react to Israel's annexation plans?

Protests in Gaza

Thousands of people in Gaza protested against the plans on Wednesday, some brandishing Palestinian flags and placards condemning Trump.

"The resistance must be revived," Gaza protester Rafeeq Inaiah told the AFP news agency. "Israel is afraid of force."

There were smaller demonstrations in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Jericho, which some left-wing Israeli politicians attended. 

Meanwhile, Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, fired 20 rockets in the Mediterranean Sea as a show of force.

aw/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)