GENEVA – The United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Monday urged the Israeli government to halt its plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
“Annexation is illegal. Period,” the high commissioner said in a plain-spoken statement. “Any annexation. Whether it is 30 percent of the West Bank, or 5 percent.
“I urge Israel to listen to its own former senior officials and generals, as well as to the multitude of voices around the world, warning it not to proceed along this dangerous path.”
The consequences of the annexation, although not clear, would be disastrous for Palestinians, Israel and the wider region, she added.
“As many others have noted, any attempt to annex any part of the occupied Palestinian territory will not only seriously damage efforts to achieve lasting peace in the region, it is likely to entrench, perpetuate and further heighten serious human rights violations that have characterized the conflict for decades,” she said.
“The shockwaves of annexation will last for decades, and will be extremely damaging to Israel, as well as to the Palestinians,” Bachelet said, adding that it was not yet too late to reverse the decision.
The UN office said in the statement Israel’s bid to annex territories in the West Bank would further isolate Palestinian communities and that people would be deprived of access to their own land.
Palestinians living in annexed areas would also be pressured to move out and would lose access to natural resources.
Much of the West Bank has been under Israeli-administration, in line with the Oslo Accords, signed in 1992.
Buoyed by strong support from Donald Trump, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has worked with the United States on a so-called peace plan for the region. The details of it are yet to be made public, but many expect the areas under Israeli-administration to be directly annexed.
The UN warned that annexation would increase the growth of Israeli settlements in the region, which are deemed illegal by international law.
“This is a highly combustible mix,” Bachelet said.
“I am deeply concerned that even the most minimalist form of annexation would lead to increased violence and loss of life, as walls are erected, security forces deployed and the two populations brought into closer proximity.
“The existing two-tier system of law in the same territory will become embedded, with devastating impacts on the lives of Palestinians who have little or no access to legal remedy.”
The Israeli government is expected to begin carrying out its plan on July 1.