Mixed messages on West Bank sovereignty leaves diplomats flailing – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on May 27, 2020

With no official government policy on the potential extension sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, diplomats have been left without the tools to stand up for Israel amid growing international criticism.Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz inadvertently highlighted the challenging situation in his remarks at a Blue and White faction meeting on Wednesday.These days, there are significant diplomatic opportunities on the agenda that can improve and even change the face of the entire region, including, of course the peace plan proposed by the US government, Gantz said.Gantz added that, in the coming weeks, he and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi will review professional assessments on the matter, to bring the best results that will protect Israeli security and our national and international interests.We will act wisely and responsibly. That is the only way we can bring historic achievements that will strengthen Israels security for generations, he stated.But while Gantz and Ashkenazi take their time, international pushback against annexation from across the world from Beijing to Brussels has not waited for them to make a decision, and the matter is on the international political agenda.In some cases, like in the Czech Republic, its even on the domestic political agenda. Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek wrote an article sharply criticizing annexation, and his countrys prime minister, Andrej Babis, and president, Milos Zeman, immediately sniped back, telling him he cannot have his own separate foreign policy.Since there has not been an Israeli cabinet decision, or even instructions from the new foreign minister to diplomats, a Foreign Ministry source said that diplomats main response to criticism of the planned annexation has been that there is no decision yet to react to. Another common answer diplomats been using is to point out that annexation is in the framework of US President Donald Trumps peace plan, which calls for a return to negotiations and includes sovereignty for Palestinians, as well.An Israeli diplomat posted in a European hotbed of criticism lamented the very complex situation.I said to the [Foreign] Ministry, its enough, we need a policy, we need talking points, he said. What we know is there is an intention, the prime minister repeated it and wants to implement sovereignty starting on July 1... I dont have concrete tools to respond to the people I talk to.Opponents of annexation have it easier, the diplomat said, because they can simply say it is a good idea. There are anti-annexation initiatives across Europe, he added.For example, Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen reached out on Wednesday to Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, a leading proponent of having the European Union institute sanctions on Israel if it proceeds with annexation. Jabareen said Asselborn told him annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories violates international law and threatens regional peace, and the MK suggested organizing an international conference to advance the two-state solution.But diplomats represent the governments position, and they need details of what that position is in order to explain it to people.The source said that, contrary to a recent Israel Hayom report, he and others have not even been told what words to use to describe the possible actions: I dont even have the right words to use to say its not annexation, its something else.Application of sovereignty is the terminology of the Trump plan and what the prime minister uses, he pointed out, but he expressed concern there are nuanced differences in international law between annexation, applying law or applying sovereignty that may be important.The diplomats do not have talking points about the details of the Trump plan that still need to be filled in.No one knows what the plan is, if its 20% or 30% of Judea and Samaria, that Israel will actually apply its laws to, he said. The Trump plan allows for annexation of about 30% of the West Bank, including all settlements and the Jordan Valley.We dont know the future of the Palestinians in the land that will be annexed, the diplomatic source added. Thats not a hostile question. Thats a normal question people ask me. And I dont have an answer to that question.The diplomat expressed hope that Ashkenazi will formulate a policy in the coming days.Ashkenazi gave a hint of his views in his inaugural speech as foreign minister last week.We stand before significant regional opportunities, foremost of which is President Trumps peace initiative, Ashkenazi said.Trumps plan is a significant milestone that grants Israel a historic opportunity to shape Israels future and its borders for the coming decades, he added, saying it will be promoted responsibly and in coordination with the US, while maintaining the peace treaties and strategic interests of the State of Israel.Ashkenazi also said peace is a strategic asset and called Egypt and Jordan the most important allies in dealing with regional challenges.

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Mixed messages on West Bank sovereignty leaves diplomats flailing - The Jerusalem Post

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