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It is high time for the UK Government to act: Israel defies the international community and grabs more Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank

March 18, 2016, midnight

“The British Government must shoulder its responsibilities to the Palestinians and act decisively to put real pressure on the pariah state of Israel. Words are not enough. If the UK wants to show genuine support for peace, it should penalize Israel for its expansionist policies and take steps to stop Israel acting with impunity “. Manuel Hassassian

There has been international outrage at Israel’s latest seizure of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. Israel has just confiscated 585 acres, that is, 2.34 km2 of land near the Dead Sea and the Palestinian city of Jericho, declaring it ‘state lands’.

This latest seizure, the largest land grab by Israel in recent years, is in Area C of the occupied West Bank which will constitute the economic hub and the bread- basket of a future Palestinian State. This new theft of land is earmarked for Israeli commercial interests and tourism.

Israel announced this highly damaging move on the same day it had meetings with Pierre Vimont, the French envoy for his country’s initiative which is aimed at pushing the peace process forward. Israel’s actions demonstrate its contempt for such efforts and strips away any semblance that it is serious about peace and the two-state solution.

There has been severe criticism of this latest expropriation of land by the international community. The UK, Germany, France and the US, as well as the UN, were swift to denounce the move. The US Ambassador, Dan Shapiro said he was ‘concerned and perplexed’ by Israel’s settlement policy which, he said raised ‘honest questions about Israel’s long term intentions’ and the State Department announced that it ‘strongly opposes any steps to accelerate settlement expansion’.

Although such censure is welcomed, the time for such condemnations has passed. The international community must act resolutely and swiftly to put a stop to Israel’s repeated and intensifying violations of Palestinian human rights.

The UK Government could have sent a clear message last Monday and supported Palestine’s ascension to the Permanent Court of Arbitration, instead, it abstained. Will the British Government continue to sit on the fence when it comes to Palestinian rights or will it finally send a clear signal to Israel that it can no longer act with impunity and make a mockery of international law?

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