Israel moves ahead with Palestinian land annexation, despite threat of ICC action
Israel is poised to annex large swaths - almost one third - of the West Bank in its bid to claim the Jordan Valley, as the International Criminal Court (ICC) appears poised to launch a war crimes probe over the country's occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The move comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was emboldened by US President Donald Trump's slated Middle East Plan, which has been condemned by Palestinian, regional and international leaders as a farce.
Netanyahu on Tuesday announced plans to move ahead with an annexation of the Jordan Valley, a large part of which belongs in the Occupied West Bank.
He spoke in Washington as Trump unveiled the "peace" plan, which matches Netanyahu's hyper-nationalist stance and undercuts Palestinian and international legitimacy of a two-stage solution.
"History is knocking at the door," said Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett, who supports the settler movement.
"Now the campaign is moving from the White House to the cabinet room in Jerusalem. Take everything now,” he added.
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Harsh legal action
|Trump had a lot to say about the plan [Getty]
Moving ahead with annexation plans is likely to trigger severe international condemnation and possibly legal action.
Last month, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, declared, "I am satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip", she said, without specifying the perpetrators of the alleged crimes.
Israel repeatedly flouts the court's authority, nevertheless Netanyahu appears worried about a possible investigation and accused Bensouda of "pure anti-semitism".
Israel and the US have both refused to sign up to the court, which was set up in 2002 to be the only global tribunal trying the world's worst crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Bensouda launched a preliminary probe in January 2015 into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Israel and the Palestinian territories, in the wake of the 2014 Gaza war.
A full ICC investigation could possibly lead to charges against individuals being brought. States cannot be charged by the ICC.
"Palestine welcomes this step as a long overdue step to move the process forward towards an investigation, after nearly five long and difficult years of preliminary examination," the Palestinian statement said.
The Palestinians have already rejected the proposal, accusing Trump of being biased in favour of Israel as he has adopted policies benefiting the country at the expense of Palestinians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas vowed the initiative unveiled in Washington on Tuesday would fail.
"This conspiracy deal will not pass. Our people will take it to the dustbin of history," he said after a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah of various Palestinian factions including Islamist group Hamas, which pledged to "resist the deal in all its forms".
Trump's proposal included a long list of measures directly in line with Israeli interests, notably recognition of Jerusalem as the "undivided capital" of Israel.
"If Jerusalem is not the capital of the Palestinian state, how will we accept that?" Abbas asked, stressing that it was "impossible for any child, Arab, Muslim or Christian", to do so.
Meanwhile Oman, Bahrain and UAE were among the only Arab states to be present at the announcement.
"The State welcomes all efforts aiming towards a longstanding and just peace in the occupied Palestinian territories" providing it is "consistent with international law and the relevant UN resolutions”, Qatar's Foreign Ministry said.
Qatar also called for a Palestinian state "within the 1967 borders, including East Jerusalem" and the right of return.
Jordan and Turkey were critical of the plan. Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned against "the dangerous consequences of unilateral Israeli measures, such as the annexation of Palestinian lands, the building, and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian occupied lands and encroachments on the Holy Sites in Jerusalem".
Turkey's ministry of foreign affairs released a statement saying the "so-called US peace plan is stillborn… this is an annexation plan aiming to destroy the two-state solution and seize the Palestinian territories".
He added: "The people and the land of Palestine cannot be bought off."
Iran described it as "treason of the century".