127 British politicians from all parties have written to the British Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary urging them to make clear publicly to Israel that any annexation of occupied Palestinian territory “will have severe consequences including sanctions”.
In an unprecedented intervention, politicians including former cabinet members, ministers and senior diplomats, demanded actions not words in opposing any Israeli annexation. This would be “a mortal blow to chances of peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on any viable two-state solution.”
The letter points out that when Russia illegally annexed Crimea on 2014, “Britain quite properly opposed these acts with appropriate measures, including robust sanctions.”
Signatories to the letter included Lord Chris Patten of Barnes, the former European Commissioner for External Relations; Lord Michael Jay, the former Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Sir Edward Davey, the leader of Liberal Democrats; and former Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell and Baroness Helena Kennedy.
More coverage of the letter can be found in the Guardian.
The letter reads:
We are writing to you to express our outrage at the new Israeli Government’s declared plan to annex areas of territories it occupied in June 1967. This action is the key plank of the agreed Israeli coalition platform. It states that the Government can advance legislation on annexation after 1 July. It is already clear that the Israeli Government will use the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic to seek to implement this egregious plan. It is vital that the UK does everything in its power to prevent this.
Annexation of occupied territory violates several UN Security Council Resolutions including UNSCR 242 and 2334. It is a mortal blow to chances of peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on any viable two-state solution. The joint statement by the UK Government, together with France, Germany, Italy and Spain, on 12 September last year could not have been clearer. Unilateral annexation of any part of the West Bank would be “a serious breach of international law”.
International law is crystal clear. The acquisition of territory through war is prohibited. The Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 is a recent example where Britain quite properly opposed such acts with appropriate measures, including robust sanctions.
Britain upholds the international rules-based system, as you as Prime Minister have affirmed repeatedly. If we are to prevent other states with territorial ambitions from copying Israeli illegal behaviour, the UK must take a lead in standing up to this aggression. The international community is duty-bound to protect Palestinians under occupation.
We ask you to take the lead in bringing our international partners together to prevent this illegal action. Our Government has stated that any annexation “cannot go unchallenged”. The Government must now make clear publicly to Israel that any annexation will have severe consequences including sanctions. Words are not enough: Prime Minister Netanyahu has ignored our words. We need to prevent his Government from setting this alarmingly dangerous precedent in international relations.
Caabu Director, Chris Doyle commented: “Annexation has the potential to be a watershed moment. On the ground Israel will gobble up ever more Palestinian territory and ride roughshod over international law. Internationally major European powers like Britain, who as these leading politicians show, will have to have the courage to go far further than anyone might have imagined to defend the international rules-based order. Sanctions should not be entered into lightly but such an action would more than warrant it, just as we did with Russia over Crimea. For too long we have stood and watched as Israel violated Palestinian human rights.”
Sir Vincent Fean, UK Consul-General, Jerusalem 2010-14; Chair, Balfour Project: “Annexation is a crime against the wellbeing of both peoples, Palestinian and Israeli. Britain has a duty to work with France, Germany and others to prevent it, with recourse to sanctions if Netanyahu ignores their warnings. “
Quotes from signatories:
Crispin Blunt MP: “This is a massive test for the international community and for Britain which I hope we will pass. We can take the seemingly easy way out, do nothing and pay for the consequences later. We can send the message that in any of the many territorial disputes around the world, aggression and bullying wins. Or we can take a stand, demonstrate that international law does still mean something, and show that whether it is Russia, Israel or any other state, such actions have real and actual consequences.”
Rt Hon David Jones MP, Chair of Caabu: “I am sure the Government understands just how serious a breach of international law any Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory would be. As this letter shows, it would have widespread support to hold Israel account should it cross this line.
“Sadly this will probably require more than words; but such a violation of the rule of law cannot go unchallenged.
“I hope Israeli leaders will think twice before such a drastic decision, which would irrevocably destroy the chances of a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.”
Stephen Kinnock MP, Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Palestine Group: “‘The UK government was absolutely right to state on 12 September last year that unilateral annexation would be “a serious breach of international law”. And Wayne David, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Middle East, reiterated this point yesterday, in his letter to Foreign Office Minister, James Cleverly.
If the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary are genuinely committed to upholding the international rules-based order then they must now make it clear to the Israeli government that if annexation goes ahead then the British government will have no choice but to impose sanctions on goods that are produced in the illegally occupied territories.
Annexation would be the final nail in the coffin of the two-state solution. This is a rubicon moment for Israel, for Palestine, and for the international community. The British government must act, because failure to do so would truly be a betrayal of our duty to stand up for human rights, peace, justice and the rule of law.’”
Layla Moran MP: “The UK has a proud history of not just abiding by but shaping the international law-based order. These worrying developments in Israel are clearly contrary to the letter and spirit of that liberal order and cannot go unnoticed. I would urge the Government to make a clear and unequivocal statement making clear that it is against these illegal moves as soon as possible.”