Thursday, April 30, 2020

How The World Will React To Israeli Annexation Of Golan Heights

Lots of bark, some actual bite? How the world will react to West Bank annexation

On November 16, 1980, prime minister Menachem Begin was asked during an interview with NBC how he thought the international community would respond to an Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights. At the time, a bill extending Israeli law to the disputed area had been introduced on the Knesset floor, but Begin’s government had not yet announced its support for the move.
“As we didn’t yet take any decision about it, I think it is premature to speak about reactions,” he told the interviewer.
About a year later, Begin pushed the Golan Heights Law through the Knesset. The international community’s response was unsurprising, with the United Nations Security Council condemning Israel’s de facto annexation as a “continuing threat to international peace and security.” Resolution 497 passed unanimously, including a “yes” vote by the Reagan administration.

Fast forward four decades: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to annex all the settlements, the Jordan Valley and other significant parts of the West Bank, with the coalition agreement between his Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White allowing him to advance the issue in the next government as early as July 1.
How would the international community react to this kind of Israeli annexation? There would certainly be plenty of opprobrium, “emergency meetings” by the Security Council and the Arab League, and perhaps a few threats of unspecified “consequences.”

But no one knows for sure whether Netanyahu’s annexation — whose actual impact on the ground is hard to predict — would have concrete negative internationally driven repercussions for Israel.
Would the European Union enact sanctions against Israel, as it did against Russia after its annexation of Crimea in 2014? Brussels could, for instance, freeze some bilateral agreements, suspend scientific cooperation, cancel the preferential tariffs it grants to Israeli products, or ban West Bank goods altogether. Some individual member states may recall their ambassadors or recognize a Palestinian state.

“Responses vary among countries, but at this phase the concrete consequences of annexation are yet to be spelled out,” said Nimrod Goren, the head of Mitvim — The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies. “The type of annexation that Netanyahu will eventually choose to pursue will impact how harsh the international response will be. The reaction of the Palestinians on the ground — whether violent or not — will also be a determining factor.”

Many countries have recently emphasized that unilateral annexations are a violation of international law, which according to Goren shows that challenges to Netanyahu’s move would play out not only bilaterally but also in the international legal arena.
But since the UN and the EU are “limited in their response to annexation due to possible veto by Israel’s allies there, Israel should expect major pushback from countries like France, Germany and Jordan,” he said.
The US this week reiterated its support for an Israeli annexation, as long as it’s done in the framework of President Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century. The administration is sure to veto any attempt to condemn Israel’s move, but at the UN General Assembly a (nonbinding) resolution would pass with an overwhelming majority.

Last week, as the Likud-Blue and White coalition deal was published, officials across the globe warned the incoming Israeli government against annexation. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said ominously that Brussels would “closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly.”

Some EU member states felt that now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, was “not the time for threats” and blocked efforts to issue Borrell’s statement in the name of the entire bloc, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel.

Still, no country beside the US has issued support for an Israeli annexation, and even many of its close friends have advised against it clearly. Germany said it would have “serious, negative repercussions on Israel’s standing within the international community,” and France warned that it “would not pass unchallenged and shall not be overlooked in our relationship with Israel.”

Other countries, including Russia, China, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Italy, and Norway, made similar statements.
The Palestinian leadership welcomed the “global and principled commitment to the standing and universal application of international law, which strictly prohibits annexation,” and called for “preemptive and concrete measures” against Israel.

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