GAZA CITY: An Israeli coalition government plan to annex further territory on the West Bank signals an end to the Mideast peace process, Palestinian leaders warned.
After three stalemate elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and arch-rival Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party recently signed a power-sharing deal allowing for the country’s premiership to be rotated between the two leaders.
Under to the agreement, Netanyahu can advance legislation to annex parts of the West Bank starting on July 1, on condition that the move is supported by the US as part of its peace proposal officially announced on Jan. 28.
However, Palestinian leaders and political analysts warn that any move to seize new territory will shut the door on the “two-state solution,” further threatening the stalled peace process and undermining stability in the region.
According to Palestinian estimates, up to 30 percent of the West Bank is threatened with annexation under the unity government agreement.
Immediately after the announcement of coalition pact, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said that “forming an Israeli annexation government means ending the two-state solution.”
Shtayyeh warned that “this will take us in a new direction of conflict with the occupation.”
Later, Shtayyeh said that Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had contacted world leaders, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and the UN Security Council, calling for an international peace conference and a halt to Israel’s expansionist plans.
Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO executive and a close associate of Abbas, said that the Israeli coalition is “based on the theft of Palestinian lands, and constitutes a serious threat to peace, security and stability in the entire region, not only in Palestine.”
Erekat told Arab News that the next Israeli government has two options: “Either opening the horizons for a meaningful peace process, committing to its obligations and entitlements under international law, or working to further endanger peace, plundering the land and expanding illegal colonial settlement.”
He declined to comment on the Palestinian leadership’s options if Israel goes ahead with its plan.
The Netanyahu-Gantz agreement adds further strain to the Palestinian Authority’s relationship with Israel following a decision by an Israeli court to confiscate $128 million of Palestinian tax revenues in favor of Israeli families affected by Palestinian armed attacks.
Abbas Zaki, a member of Fatah’s central committee, said that in the face of hostile Israeli measures, the “conflict with the occupation is taking a new turn.”
“All options are open,” he told Arab News.
“This brutal and extremist Israeli government eliminates any opportunity or hope for peace in the region, and its approach has support from the Trump administration.”
Zaki refused to rule out a “massive popular uprising against the occupation.”
He said: “We will open the way for our people to express their anger. When danger rocks you, you use all your tools, and there may be options that are not taken into account now.”
He added: “We will decide everything in due course, and our friends around the world will have an important role.”
However, political analyst Hani Al-Masri, director of the Masarat Center for Research and Studies in Ramallah, said that the Palestinian leadership is limited when it comes to “strong and influential options.”
Al-Masri told Arab News: “The leadership is capable and has choices. In 2000, Israel fought, but that was the time of Yasser Arafat. As for the leadership today, does it have the will and willingness to do that? Most likely not.”
He said that “the annexation scheme restores the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to the first square, based on occupation, settlement, force and imposing reality on the ground.”
Arab league to meet over Israel’s plans to annex West BankIsrael accused of ‘piracy’ over Palestinian funds