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UN Rights Chief Says Israeli Annexation Plan "Disastrous"

  •  World

The U.N.’s human rights chief on Monday said that Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank would have “disastrous” consequences for the region, as U.S. and Israeli officials were meeting in Jerusalem to try and finalize the move.

The warning by Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, added to the growing chorus of international voices urging Israel not to annex territory in line with President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan.

The U.N. secretary-general, the European Union and key Arab countries have all spoken out against annexation, saying it would violate international law and all but destroy any remaining hopes of establishing a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“The precise consequences of annexation cannot be predicted,” Bachelet said in a statement issued by her office in Geneva. “But they are likely to be disastrous for the Palestinians, for Israel itself, and for the wider region.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry accused Bachelet of politicizing her office and noted that it froze ties with her office early this year due to what it called her “one-sided” attitude.

“It is not surprising that she decided today to join the Palestinian campaign against the American peace plan, and to publish declarations before any decision has been made,” the ministry said in a statement, APnews reports.

The Trump plan, unveiled in January, envisions leaving some 30% of the West Bank under permanent Israeli control, while granting the Palestinians autonomy in the remainder of the area.

The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, for a fully independent state. Israel captured all three areas in the 1967 Mideast war, though it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, clearing the way for Hamas militants to seize control two years later.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a strong supporter of Trump, has been unswayed by the international criticism. He says the supportive Trump presidency has provided a rare opportunity to redraw the Mideast map and annex Israel’s scores of settlements, as well as the strategic Jordan Valley. He has pledged to move forward as soon as July 1, seeking to take action well before the U.S. presidential election in November.

In a speech to evangelical Christian supporters of Israel late Sunday, Netanyahu said Trump’s plan “finally puts to rest the two-state illusion” and would “advance peace.”

“President Trump’s plan doesn’t really change the reality on the ground. It recognizes the reality on the ground,” he said.

Netanyahu’s coalition partner, Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, however, has appeared to be more cautious. Both Netanyahu and Gantz were meeting with White House envoy Avi Berkowitz and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman to work on a final map outlining which areas will be annexed. The talks were continuing after a series of meetings in Washington last week ended inconclusively.

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