Israel faced mounting pressure to abandon any plans for annexation in Yehuda and Shomron, as France and the U.N. issued stern warnings against unilateral actions.
A partial annexation of the region by Israel would be a serious violation, and France is working with European partners to come up with a joint action plan for prevention and reprisal should Israel make such a move, France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.
“For the past few days we have held several video conferences with European colleagues … with a view to deciding on a joint preventive action and eventually a reprisal if such a decision were taken,” Jean-Yves Le Drian said at a parliament hearing.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said cabinet discussions will start in July over extending Israeli sovereignty to Yehuda and Shomron communities and the Jordan Valley, as was mooted under U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.
Also on Wednesday, the U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that such a plan would be a serious violation of international law that would “close the door to a renewal of negotiations.”
“Israel must abandon its threat of annexation. And the Palestinian leadership to re-engage with all members of the quartet,” he said, referring to the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
Mladenov urged the 15-member council to back a push by U.N. chief Antonio Guterres against unilateral steps that would hinder diplomatic efforts to renew negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Such a statement by the council is unlikely as it has to be agreed by consensus and the United States traditionally uses its veto to stand with Israel.
“This council cannot dictate the end to this conflict. We can only encourage the parties to sit down together to determine how they wish to make progress,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft said.
The Palestinians have rejected a peace plan by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.
Mladenov urged the quartet to “come forward with a proposal that will enable the quartet to take up its mediation role.”
On Tuesday, Germany also expressed opposition to annexation.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh reiterated backing for a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines, with a capital in East Yerushalayim
“They noted with grave concern the agreement between coalition parties in Israel to advance plans for annexation of occupied Palestinian territories as stipulated in the Israeli coalition agreement,” they said in a joint statement.
The French and German warnings were not issued through the European Union because they were not able to muster the unanimous 27-member vote required for a formal E.U. position statement.
Hungary and Austria took exception to similar criticism of Israel expressed by E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, who spoke on his own, saying: “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 “We” refers to 25 of the 27, minus Hungary and Austria.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said his country rejects “prejudice” against Israel and called for a dialogue with the new government, sworn in on Sunday, Austrian news site Kurier reported.
Austria and Hungary both proposed that Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi be invited to a meeting of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, during the panel’s meeting on Friday.
Updated Wednesday, May 20, 2020 at 3:29 pm updated info