With Israel taking steps towards annexation of the occupied West Bank, the International Condemnation has poured in, but will this condemnation materialise into swift measures against Israel for its actions?
The European Union (EU), UK, Arab League, Russia, China and most of the world have weighed in on Israel’s ambitions to annex vast portions of the Palestinian West Bank, with all unanimously disapproving of the move.
On the European front, 1,080 EU Parliamentarians, from 25 different nations, have signed onto a letter calling on Israel to halt on its plans and urging actions to be taken against Israel if it doesn’t. In the UK nearly 130 MP’s also signed onto a letter demanding that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apply sanctions against Israel if it goes ahead with annexation. In Belgium, the Belgian Parliament voted through a resolution 101-0 calling on the government to impose sanctions against Israel if it annexes parts of the West Bank.
The present is set, but the question now remains, will the European powers actually go through with any of these threats? According to many analysts it seems as if not much will actually materialise unless there is a push from the public and international community for such actions to be taken.
Why Is The Annexation Of The West Bank Illegal And What Can Be Done About It?
The term annexation means the forcible acquisition of territory by one State at the expense of another State. Annexation is viewed as illegal under the UN Charter.
Israel is currently considered internationally – only contested by Israel itself and recently by the US State Department – to be the occupying power inside of the Palestinian territories. Meaning that the laws of occupation apply to Israel, which are strictly laid out in the Fourth Geneva Convention. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention guidelines, it is prohibited for a State to settle its own population within the territory/territories it occupies, meaning that the 250+ Settlements Israel currently has inside of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, are a clear violation of International Law, hence Israel has no right to annex them into its territory as their mere existence is illegal. The settlements are in fact a presumptive war crime under the 1988 Rome Statute.
In 1967, the year when the annexation of the West Bank began, UN resolution 242 stipulated that the acquisition of territory through force is inadmissible under International Law and called upon Israel to withdraw to the borders of the pre-June 1967 war.
On the issue of annexation, the International Communities response to Israel’s announced actions, proposed to take place this month, has been firmly grounded in the understanding that Israel’s actions are indeed wrong. With the most respected bodies on the planet, clearly stating that Israel’s intention is a violation of International Law.
On the 16th of June, experts at the United Nations released a joint statement, calling on the International Community to hold Israel accountable for its actions, affirming the illegality of the Israeli annexation plan by stating:
“The annexation of occupied territory is a serious violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions, and contrary to the fundamental rule affirmed many times by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly that the acquisition of territory by war or force is inadmissible. The international community has prohibited annexation precisely because it incites wars, economic devastation, political instability, systematic human rights abuses and widespread human suffering.”
In a briefing on the 13th of May, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian Territories, Michael Lynk, noted in relation to Israel’s planned annexation, the International reaction to the Russian annexation of Crimea. He stated that despite Russia’s power to veto UN resolutions against it at the security council, “many of the most powerful players in the world, enacted swift and comprehensive sanctions against Russia. They included the diplomatic downgrading of relations, which included banishing Russia from the G8 and suspending its application to join to OACD, the freezing of assets and the acquisition of travel restrictions against targeted individuals, import and export bans respecting goods coming from Crimea…an array of economic sanctions against Russia and restrictions on economic cooperation”. Michael Lynk goes on to say that these measures were imposed upon Russia despite it being such a powerful international player and meant consequences for those applying the measures.
In 1980 and 1981 Israel illegally annexed the Syrian Golan Heights as well as East Jerusalem, yet despite Israel not being the global powerhouse Russia is, no tangible consequences for Israel. Michael Lynk’s comments on Russia point out the viability of real actions being taken against Israel for its annexation, of what could amount to 33% of the West Bank or even more.
The world’s two most respected Human Rights NGOs Amnesty International, as well as Human Rights Watch, have also both issued statements regarding the illegality of Israel’s move. Amnesty’s Deputy Regional Director for MENA, Saleh Hijazi, having urged the international community to “enforce International Law and restate that annexation of any part of the West Bank is null and void”.
It is clear that at this point, the precedent is set for real action to be taken against Israel for this move, but it is widely understood that it will take an insurmountable amount of pressure to be mounted against world powers for them to budge on the question of sanctions against Israel.
This is believed to be the case as the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign against Israel, created in order to hold Israel to account for its continuing human rights violations against Palestinians, has been all but outlawed in many Western Nations. This is the case in Germany, France and the UK, where a concerted effort from the Israeli Lobby groups in these various countries has pushed the narrative that BDS is tantamount to hatred of the Jewish people and has paved the way for legislative moves against this act of free speech. Even in the United States, the First Amendment of the US constitution is currently being violated by the implementation of anti-BDS bills in over 20 separate States.