Move by PM Netanyahu to enact annexation plan for West Bank territories comes due on July 1

Calling on India to oppose Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to go ahead with the annexation of about a third of West Bank territories with a possible vote on July 1, the Palestinian government said the move would end the effectiveness of any future negotiations in the conflict.

“We need India to maintain its support to the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and statehood,” Majdi El Khaldi, the Senior Diplomatic Advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told The Hindu. “We urge India to strongly oppose any unilateral actions and violations of international law in the Palestinian Territories, including the Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands by force,” he added.

It is unclear whether the Israeli government will indeed go ahead with the vote on Wednesday, given deep differences between Mr. Netanyahu and his “alternate” PM and Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who has publicly said that battling the COVID-19 pandemic was a bigger priority for Israel at present. However Mr. Netanyahu said that the final decision would be made by him, not Mr. Gantz.

The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on the issue, and the government has thus far issued no statement on Mr. Netanyahu’s stated plans, that were part of his election promises, to pass a Cabinet vote enacting sovereignty rights over the Jordan Valley, 132 Israeli settlements and other areas totalling about 30% the West Bank. The annexation is a part of US President Donald Trump’s “peace plan” authored by his advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Under an agreement amongst partners in Israel’s ruling coalition, the enactment can proceed from July 1.

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PM Narendra Modi has spoken to Israeli PM Netanyahu three times in the past four months, mainly to discuss cooperation during the pandemic, but officials would not comment on whether the annexation issue had been raised between them. The officials suggested that India would wait and watch developments before reacting. In January, India had disapproved of the U.S.-Israel peace plan, reiterating India’s “consistent support for the Palestinian cause”.

Palestinian Ambassador Adnan Abu Al-Haija said India, which has just won a two-year non-permanent seat at the UNSC beginning January 2021, would have an international role to play on the issue. “Israel’s termination of the possibility for a negotiated settlement will require States, including India, to rise to their legal and political responsibilities, especially members of the Security Council with due regard for their duty to ensure international peace and security,” Mr. Al-Haija said.

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