Rights groups slam UK ‘lacklustre’ response to Israeli annexation of West Bank
“The UK holds legal, moral and historic duties towards the Palestinian people, and has often reiterated its support for the rule of international law and Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
"In practice, however, its opposition to Israel’s violations has been largely rhetorical,” reads the statement released by the UK-based groups including Christian Aid, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, and War on Want.
The criticism comes after the shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, confirmed the British Labour party’s support for a ban on Israeli imports made in West Bank settlements if Israel’s annexation went ahead.
While the proposal has been backed by Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, and will be raised in the Commons on Tuesday, many are skeptical it will amount to anything more.
The Foreign Office has so far only restated its position that an illegal annexation could happen without consequences, but has yet to take any other concrete measures.
The statement issued by the coalition of rights groups outlined that the UK’s response to Palestinian human rights in the face of Israeli occupation has always been “lacklustre”.
While even the conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank would “amount to a breach of international law," the rights groups wrote that “the UK has consistently failed to outline how it will meaningfully oppose [the annexation],” arguing that “only clear and concrete warnings will be an effective deterrent.”
The statement ends with recommendations for the UK government: “The UK can show that it has not abandoned the Palestinian people by leading its international partners, including the EU, in recommitting to the cause of Palestinian self-determination, and by outlining, clearly and publicly, what actual, meaningful consequences will result if Israel proceeds with its illegal annexation plans.
“As with other recent examples of annexation, this violation of international law must carry appropriate ramifications.”
Palestine has already been recognised by nine EU member states including Sweden, Hungary, and Poland, but the UK has not expressed any plans to do so.
Earlier this month, a group of prominent British Jews signed an open letter addressed to Israel's ambassador to the UK expressing "concern and alarm" over annexation.
Read also: Black Lives Matter UK stands with Palestine against 'colonialism' as Israel's illegal annexation looms
Politicians who signed included Labour politician, Jeremy Beecham, former defence secretary and foreign secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, and House of Lords members, Julia Neuberger and Parry Mitchell.
Israel's plans to annex approximately one third of the West Bank was greenlighted by US President Donald Trump's so-called "Deal of the Century".
The plan also envisages the creation of a severely restricted Palestinian state.
The Palestinians have rejected the plan outright, while world leaders have urged Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt annexation of parts of the West Bank.
Israel has occupied the West Bank illegally since 1967, and commits various abuses against Palestinian civilians, human rights groups say.
More than 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in constructions considered illegal under international law.
The Oslo agreement of 1995 divided the occupied West Bank into three: Area A, Area B and Area C.
Area A is under the administrative and security control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Area B's administration is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, with Israel controlling security. Area C is under full administrative and security control of Israel.
Israel's plans to annex the West Bank have been denounced as an illegal violation of international law by world leaders as well as UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet.