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UN investigator: Israel “moving rapidly” towards West Bank annexation

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UNITED NATIONS, 12 JULY 2019 — Israel is “moving rapidly” towards annexing parts of the Palestinian West Bank and tough rhetoric from Israeli politicians could presage a “dramatic” step in the coming months, United Nations investigator Michael Lynk told Mondoweiss.

Speaking by phone from Amman, the capital of Jordan, during a week-long fact-finding visit to the region, Lynk said that Israel’s settlement-building on Palestinian land was at its “highest level in recent years”.

“It’s moving much more rapidly and on the horizon is something much more dramatic,” said Lynk, the UN’s special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory.

S. Michael Lynk at UN press conference on Oct. 26, 2017.

S. Michael Lynk at UN press conference on Oct. 26, 2017.

“The public statements made by senior American diplomats in favor of the long-expressed wish by senior Israeli political leaders, including virtually every member of the Israeli cabinet, in favor of annexation of some parts of the West Bank has only gotten louder. There is a greater normalization of the concept of annexation.”

Lynk was visiting Jordan to meet Israeli and Palestinian officials and activists and to carry out research for an annual report that he will submit to the UN’s Geneva-based Human Rights Council (HRC) later this year.

As on previous visits, the Canadian law professor was denied entry to Palestine by Israeli officials — a decision he criticized as “contrary to Israel’s obligations as a UN member to cooperate fully with experts” from the world body.

Lynk noted a “sharp rise” in the number of demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, particularly in East Jerusalem, where hundreds of residents of Sur Baher await the feared arrival of Israeli bulldozers.

Israel’s mission to the UN did not provide a comment to Mondoweiss. In the past, both Israel and the United States have heavily criticized Lynk’s observations and conclusions, which are not legally binding.

Israel captured the West Bank in a war in 1967. Its settlements there are seen as illegal by most world powers. Palestinians deem the outposts, and the military presence needed to protect them as obstacles to their goal of establishing a state. Israel disputes this.

In April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank during a tight re-election campaign. Such a step is increasingly discussed by Israeli politicians.

Trump administration officials have appeared to endorse annexation. David Friedman, Washington’s ambassador to Israel, said Israel was entitled to annex at least “some” of the Palestinian West Bank.

U.S. President Donald Trump has also recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moved the US embassy there, cut funding to Palestinians and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

According to Link, Israel has “already crossed the bright red line into illegality”.

“The whole point of putting settlers on occupied territory is to make those facts irreversible and to establish, with each new settlement unit, another drip of the sovereignty claim,” Lynk told Mondoweiss.

Last month, a US-led conference in Bahrain designed to raise cash for the Palestinian economy and pave a path to peace with Israel came under criticism, as no official delegation from either of the two parties attended.

Lynk predicted the US peace effort would fall apart unless the political plan, which the White House is set to release later this year, offers Palestinians a country with borders based on land seized by Israel in 1967.

“The problem has been that all of the various proposals that have been lodged over the last 25 years have, by and large, put aside this detailed peace plan based in international law,” said Lynk, who also teaches constitutional law at Western University, Ontario.

“Because of that abandonment, those plans have ended up crashing and burning, and I suspect this one will do the same.”

In the absence of a credible peace process, UN members and the European Union in particular should start cutting economic, political and cultural ties with Israel unless it starts meeting its international obligations.

“How many weeks did it take the EU to impose a comprehensive list of sanctions and withdrawals of membership for Russia in the aftermath of the 2014 occupation and annexation of Crimea? It was done extremely swiftly,” said Lynk.

“Here we have an occupation that’s passed the 52-year mark, and Israel has paid no substantial price for its prolonged occupation, annexation and defiance of international opinion with respect to settlements, the separation wall, and collective punishment.”

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) should speed up its probe into rights abuses in Gaza and the West Bank and the HRC should publish a long-awaited list of firms that conduct business on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Lynk added.

James Reinl

James Reinl is a journalist, editor and current affairs analyst. He has reported from more than 35 countries and won awards for covering wars in Sri Lanka, Congo and Somalia, Haiti’s earthquake and human rights abuses in Iran. His work has appeared on PRI's The World, Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy, Fox News, France 24, CBC, CBS News, dpa, RTÉ, The Times, The National, Monocle and APTN.

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10 Responses

  1. Kay24 on July 12, 2019, 5:19 pm

    Trump and Kushner’s gift to the arrogant and vicious occupier. Filthy crooks, who break international laws, and abuse those they occupy, to steal lands that do not belong to them.

    American tax dollars at work.

  2. Talkback on July 13, 2019, 5:59 am

    More from Lynk:

    “Any peace plan for Israel and Palestine will fail without framework of international law: UN expert

    GENEVA (28 June 2019) ‑ The international community must insist that any proposal for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the just and durable settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to be firmly anchored in human rights and international law, a UN expert said.

    “Without the framework of international law, any peace plan, including the forthcoming proposal from the United States, will crash upon the shoals of political realism,” said Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.

    “Prior plans for Middle East peace over the past five decades have all failed, in large part because they did not seriously insist upon a rights-based approach to peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Lynk said after a two-day workshop in Bahrain focusing on the economic aspects of a possible peace plan.

    The Special Rapporteur said that international law – built upon the principles of humanitarian protection, human rights, equality and justice – has been expressed in hundreds of United Nations resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    “Animating these resolutions is the vision that the law, when purposively applied, can offset a lopsided power relationship between two parties and ensure that all are equal before the law,” he said. “What matters is not the might of one’s army or economy, but the grounding of one’s vision in recognised rights and freedoms.”

    The Special Rapporteur said that six principles were particularly central to the peace process:

    Human rights. Palestinians and Israelis are entitled to the full range of individual and collective human rights enshrined in international law, including the rights to equality, movement, expression and association, as well as freedom from discrimination.
    Self-determination. This can mean that each is entitled to their own state within the boundaries of Mandate Palestine, or it can mean a voluntary agreement to live together within a common form of government. The present international consensus supports a two-state solution, which requires a viable, contiguous and fully sovereign Palestinian state, based on the June 1967 boundaries, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a meaningful transportation link between the West Bank and Gaza.
    Annexation. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in two stages, in 1967 and 1980, condemned by the United Nations as unlawful on numerous occasions. Negotiations on the Jerusalem conundrum must start with the premise that East Jerusalem is Palestinian territory.
    Settlements. The 240 Israeli settlements across East Jerusalem and the West Bank are a ‘flagrant violation’ of international law, according to the United Nations Security Council. They are also a primary source of systemic human rights violations. The settlements would have to be removed, both to comply with international law and to enable a viable and sovereign Palestinian state to emerge.
    Palestinian Refugees. International law guarantees refugees the right to select among three choices: (i) the right to return home; (ii) the right to integrate in their land of asylum; or (iii) the right to resettle in a third country. Palestinian refugees from the 1947-9 and 1967 wars, and their descendants, who wish to return to their homeland are entitled to do so, a right that the UN General Assembly has endorsed over seven decades.
    Security. Both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in security and peace, free from alien rule, terrorism and threats to their well-being, such as blockades, rockets and missiles.

    Lynk reiterated that these principles are the litmus test to judge the possibilities of success of the forthcoming American peace plan. “If the peace plan fails to integrate these principles, it will inevitably suffer the same fate as its predecessors and leave the conflict more entrenched and more bereft of hope than ever,” he said.”
    https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24760&LangID=E

    UN official devises blueprint for Israeli accountability
    United Nations – A United Nations investigator is drafting a series of steps the international community can take to deter Israel from building more settlements in the occupied West Bank and any efforts to formally annex the Palestinian territory.

    Michael Lynk, an independent UN researcher, said the European Union (EU) and some world powers should consider cutting economic, political and cultural ties with Israel in support of the Palestinian quest for statehood.

    “The international community has to look at the available menu of countermeasures that is commonly used to a wide range of countries involving gross human rights violations and has to decide what are the appropriate ones to consider to use with respect to Israel,” Lynk told Al Jazeera.

    “The international community actually holds a lot of cards with Israel, and it has to say to Israel: ‘Your membership or privileges through bilateral or multilateral agreements with respect to your economy, political and cultural relationships are all going to be called into question and reviewed unless you show genuine attempts to unwind and undo the occupation’.”

    The continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories is a hurdle to a future Palestinian state. Palestinians say peace with Israel can be achieved if they are given control of the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip as well as occupied East Jerusalem. […]

    Speaking by phone from the Jordanian capital, Lynk told Al Jazeera that UN members should consider everything from cutting cultural ties with Israel to suspending its membership of the world body.

    He emphasised the role of the EU, which accounts for some 40 percent of Israel’s external trade and could make the flow of Israeli goods and services to the 28-nation bloc contingent on policy shifts that help Palestinians.

    The Canadian law professor also focussed on two UN-backed mechanisms designed to hold Israel accountable for human rights violations that appear to have ground to a halt under pressure from the US and Israel, he said.

    Firstly, Lynk called for the speedy publication of a long-awaited blacklist of Israeli and international companies that profit from operations in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, which has been drawn up by the UN’s human rights apparatus in Geneva.

    Secondly, he urged prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to hasten its preliminary investigation of allegations of rights abuses by Israel and Hamas on Palestinian territory, which began in 2015.

    “Unless there is international pressure on Israel to do the right thing, Israel will continue to deepen and further entrench the occupation,” Lynk told Al Jazeera.

    “I don’t know what the international community needs to come to the realisation that Israel is not going to unwind the occupation and permit Palestinian self-determination all on its own.” […]

    According to Lynk, Israelis are confident because of support from US President Donald Trump, who has recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moved the US embassy there, and recognised Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights. […]

    That US peace initiative, hatched by Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, is “on life support”, said Lynk.

    “We’re waiting to see what the Americans, presumably in November, will do … but unless the political part of the American peace plan adheres to a rights-based approach and international law, I think the plan is going to be dead on arrival and rejected,” Lynk told Al Jazeera.”
    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/official-devises-blueprint-israeli-accountability-190711001723569.html

  3. Bennorius on July 13, 2019, 11:05 am

    Michael Lynk’s coming annual report will be a powerful incentive and stimulus to deepen and expand the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
    The State of Israel is a serial violator of international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These are the powerful tools the BDS movement can wield. With every further violation Israel works to underline its illegitimacy as a Zionist state.
    Equality and full human rights for all living between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea is the only just long term solution.

  4. Elizabeth Block on July 13, 2019, 2:33 pm

    If Israel annexes all of the West Bank, all the Palestinians will become Israeli citizens – presumably with all the rights of Israeli citizens. (Well, all the rights of non-Jewish Israeli citizens.) No doubt that is why the plan is to annex only parts of the West Bank.

  5. Talkback on July 14, 2019, 7:44 am

    “Its settlements there are seen as illegal by most world powers. Palestinians deem the outposts, and the military presence needed to protect them as obstacles to their goal of establishing a state. Israel disputes this.”

    Its settlemets there are not only seen by every power (excluding the occupier) as illegal but by the UN which has deemed them to constitute a major obstacle to peace.

    What’s going on here?

  6. ritzl on July 14, 2019, 5:37 pm

    Moving rapily?!

    How is that different from “inexorably over decades”?

    I get that two-staters/preserve the Jewish character of Israel!” want to scare people into “the opportunity may soon be gone!” motion, but really folks, It’s over.

    It’s ONE state now. Anyone who says differently needs to be called out on how (eg. if only the Palestinians behave and we all try REALLY REALLY hard, there MAY be a negotiated, partially-sovereign Palestinian State 50 years from now over 30% of pre-67 Palestine).

    Water, Jerusalem, Industrial waste, Jordan Valley… Done.

    One State with equal rights!! I don’t get the blindness on this, though it exists, even in Dem presidential candidates.

  7. fishbiol on July 15, 2019, 8:19 pm

    Israel is in a real jam that they created. One state or two states, they lose and have to give up something they desperately want.

    They claim to be a democratic state yet Arabs who are Israeli citizens don’t have the same rights as Jewish Israel citizens. That is not considered a true democracy by the rest of the world. It is an Israeli defined “democracy”. What a joke!
    Can anyone say South Africa?

    They want to be a “Jewish state” and yet claim they are not an apartheid state. Denial is the weakest form of an excuse. They want to be a Jewish state but they cannot be so as 25% of their population are Arabs. It’s the dreaded demographic problem.

    Decide what you want and work to achieve it. That’s precisely what they have done by failing to negotiate (we have no partner to do so) and continuing to build “facts on the ground” (illegal settlements). They have destroyed any possibilty of a viable Palestinian state.

    So, if the Palestianians can’t have a seperate state, let’s have one state. But wait, we can’t at least not with all citizens having equal rights in a customary democracy. It’s the demographic problem again.

    Because the Jews cherish their “Jewishness” more than anything else, there will never be one state. So, let’s have two states and grant all the Israeli citizens living in the West Bank Palestinian citizenship with equal rights as the Arabs living in the West Bank.

    It’s an unending dilemma of Israel’s own creation.

    The Israeli’s understand money, the economy and commerce. BDS is what they fear the most. Being labelled as an apartheid state is second on the list. No nation or people (except Israel) will tolerate an apartheid state.

    Israel has two real friends remaining in the world – Britain and the United States. Doubt that? Review all the UN votes regarding Israel. Oh, I forgot. There are some Pacific Ocean island countries the US once possessed that vote with the US. These countries are well known to stamp collectors.

    • Nathan on July 15, 2019, 10:08 pm

      fishbiol – I understand that you are trying very hard to throw some mud at Israel by claiming that she has only two real friends in the world (Great Britain and the USA). Perhaps you haven’t noticed that those two countries are quite impressive societies. If these are Israel’s friends, then you have convinced me that Israel must be a very lucky country.

      It might be somewhat disappointing to find out that BDS is not Israel’s top concern. BDS is really just a propaganda ploy. It gets some news coverage, and that can be a bit annoying. Surely, the jelly-fish phenomenon every summer on the Tel-Aviv beach is much more annoying.

      You have placed the accusation of apartheid as Israel’s second most urgent concern. I take it that you haven’t spent too much time with Israelis. There is so much obsessive anti-Israel bla-bla-bla that it’s really hard to take any of it seriously. On the other hand, there was some concern that Israel might win the Eurovision song contest a second time in a row. It’s really quite expensive to host the contest, and the terrifying BDS movement isn’t even capable of preventing it from taking place in Tel-Aviv. Happily, Israel didn’t win the contest again.

  8. fishbiol on July 15, 2019, 8:38 pm

    Israel is in a real jam that they created. One state or two states, they lose and have to give up something they desperately want.

    They claim to be a democratic state yet Arabs who are Israeli citizens don’t have the same rights as Jewish Israel citizens. Imagine if Catholics in the US didn’t have the same rights as Protestants. That is not considered a true democracy by the rest of the world. It is an Israeli defined “democracy”. What a joke!
    Can anyone say South Africa?

    They want to be a “Jewish state” and yet claim they are not an apartheid state. Denial is the weakest form of an excuse. They want to be a Jewish state but they cannot be so as 25% of their population are Arabs. It’s the dreaded demographic problem.

    Decide what you want and work to achieve it. That’s precisely what they have done by failing to negotiate (we have no partner to do so) and continuing to build “facts on the ground” (illegal settlements). They have destroyed any possibility of a viable Palestinian state.

    So, if the Palestinians can’t have a separate state, let’s have one state. But wait, we can’t —at least not with all citizens having equal rights in a customary democracy. It’s the demographic problem again. Besides there are no Palestinians (denial again). Even accepting that statement, there are indigenous people living in the West Bank so what difference does it make what they are called.

    Because the Jews cherish their “Jewishness” more than anything else, there will never be one state. It would mean an end to their Jewish dominance. So, let’s have two states and grant all the Israeli citizens living in the West Bank Palestinian citizenship with equal rights as the Arabs living in the West Bank.

    It’s an unending dilemma of Israel’s own creation.

    The Israeli’s understand money, the economy and commerce. BDS is what they fear the most. Being labelled as an apartheid state is second on the list. No nation or people (except Israel) will tolerate an apartheid state.

    Israel has two real friends remaining in the world – Britain and the United States. Doubt that? Review all the UN votes regarding Israel. Oh, I forgot. There are some Pacific Ocean island countries the US once possessed that vote with the US. These countries are well known to stamp collectors.

    The Palestinians should abandon any hope of a US-mediated peace settlement. They should pursue statehood directly with the UN. Of the 193 member states in the United Nations, 137 states had recognized the state of Palestine by August 2018. This is a 70.98% representation. If this were an election, Palestine would win by a landslide.

    Freedom, justice, basic human rights and the truth will ultimately prevail.

    • RoHa on July 16, 2019, 1:14 am

      “Israel has two real friends remaining in the world – Britain and the United States.”

      You could say three if you counted Australia as an independent country, but I don’t see why you should. Our foreign policy is whatever Washington dictates.

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