UK MPs urge sanctions on Israel if annexation continues
This week, the US announced it is willing to recognise and support Israel's annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, causing outrage worldwide.
The letter was organised by the Council of British Arab Relations (CAABU) and was signed by the former Tory chairman, Lord Patten, as well as the former international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell.
The signatories insist the move by the Tel Aviv government is breaking international law.
Diplomats and notable campaigners against anti-Semitism in the Labour party, such as Margaret Hodge, also signed the letter calling for economic sanctions on Israel.
Friday’s letter drew comparisons from Russia, which faced immediate sanctions from the UK after the annexation of Crimea. Israel’s annexation of the West Bank is a similar situation and requires the same response, the letter notes.
"Politicians including former cabinet members, ministers and senior diplomats, demand actions, not words, in opposing any Israeli annexation," the group said in a statement.
The letter added that the international community is "duty-bound" to protect Palestinians under Israel’s brutal occupation, which started in 1967.
"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," it said.
The signatories also accused Israel of taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to "implement this egregious plan".
Ongoing plans to annex
The condemnation comes as the US supported Israel’s plan to annex the occupied West Bank, shortly after it was announced.
Palestinians have deplored Washington’s approach, saying the Trump administration has acted overtly favourable to Israel since the US recognised Jerusalem as the so-called capital of Israel.
At the time, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the Jerusalem escalations as an act of war.
Last month, the US described East Jerusalem Palestinians as "Arab residents" or "non-Israeli citizens" in an annual global human rights report, changing from the previously used "Palestinian residents” description.
After unilaterally recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017 and its annexation of the Golan from Syria in March 2019, Trump in late January 2020 unveiled a peace plan for the Middle East that included many concessions to Israel.
The peace plan says it would let Israel annex a third of the West Bank, inside which are hundreds of illegal settlements along with the Jordan Valley.
It would give the Palestinians limited autonomy in a small archipelago of territory with a capital on the outskirts of Jerusalem, but only if they meet the near impossible conditions set out by Trump.
Under the plan, Israel would retain control of the disputed city of Jerusalem as its "undivided capital", and annex settlements on Palestinian lands. Palestinians however want all of East Jerusalem to be the capital of any future state.