UN Chief Antonio Guterres calls on Israel to decide against annexation of West Bank

Last week, Palestinian leadership proposed an independent demilitarised state

United Nations Israel Palestinians United Nations chief Antonio Guterres | AP

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has called on Israel to abandon plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, saying such a move would be a “most serious violation of international law”, an AP report reads.

At the end of January this year, US President Donald Trump drafted a peace plan for the Middle East, which involved the ending of conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. This controversial plan gave a green light for Israel to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank, including settlements considered illegal under international law, and the Jordan Valley.

The UN secretary-general made his comments in a report to the Security Council on Tuesday, a day before the 15-member body holds its twice-yearly meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Netanyahu formed a coalition government with long-term rival Benny Gantz, he said the annexation process could begin from July 1.

The Palestinian leadership had made it clear in late January when Trump announced the peace plan that neither did it approve of it nor were the Arab leaders consulted when the plan was being drawn.

The Palestinian leadership proposed last week a plan that sought to create a “sovereign Palestinian state, independent and demilitarised”, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The plan also left options open to negotiating border modifications between the proposed state and Israel, as well as exchanges of land equal. The proposal was a response to Trump’s peace plan that was announced in January.

Trump's plan proposed the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state on the remaining patchwork of disjointed parts of the Palestinian territories but did not include East Jerusalem.

The Security Council meeting, to be held by video conference on Wednesday, will be the last major international meeting on the issue before the July 1 deadline. According to Israeli envoy to the UN Danny Danon, “Any decision on sovereignty will be made only by the Israeli government.”

According to a UN envoy, a clear message must be sent and that it was not enough to simply condemn Israeli policy, but the possibility of a case before the International Court of Justice must be brought up. Diplomats at the UN hope for a huge majority from other members to oppose Israel’s plans of annexation.

Israel, for decades, has enjoyed bipartisan US support that enabled it to ignore international criticism and numerous UN resolutions over its occupation of Palestinian territories.