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AIDA demands an immediate halt to Israel’s illegal West Bank annexation (Nov 2019)
On behalf of its more than 85 international humanitarian, development, and human rights member organizations, the Association on International Development Agencies (AIDA) calls on the Government of Israel to abandon plans to annex further areas of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), including much of the Jordan Valley and areas already containing illegal Israeli settlements, settlers and supporting infrastructure. Any annexation of occupied Palestinian territory constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and must be forcefully opposed by the international community.
Through our work in the oPt, AIDA members and our partners witness the devastating human impacts of occupation and annexation: lives and livelihoods destroyed, homes bulldozed and families left with nothing; access to healthcare obstructed by physical and administrative barriers, and livelihoods of Palestinians severely impacted. The net result has been increased poverty in areas of de facto annexation and chronic dependency on humanitarian services provided by AIDA members and others. Education of Palestinian children has also been heavily impacted by de facto annexation, including by extensive interference with access to education throughout Area C. Assistance activities and support provided by AIDA member organizations, already facing serious operational challenges, will be further threatened if the Government of Israel extends its further threatened assertion of sovereignty over occupied Palestinian territory.
Condemnations by the international community have proven ineffective in preventing Israel’s prior assertion of sovereignty in East Jerusalem and equally so in reversing the creeping de facto territorial annexation of additional West Bank territory since the 1967 occupation and up until the present.
AIDA calls on the international community to take prompt tangible action, including employing the full range of available lawful countermeasures, to incentivize the halting of any further territorial annexation actions and rapid reversal of those already announced or implemented.
On September 10, 2019, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced his commitment to annex the Jordan Valley if elected. On September 1, during a visit to the settlement of Elkana, he declared his aspiration “to extend Israel's sovereignty over all settlements in the West Bank," adding that no settlement would be "uprooted."i Other Israeli political leaders, including Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, also have expressed support for the permanent retention of the Jordan Valley. The Blue and White party, led by Mr. Gantz and which garnered the most seats in the 17 September election, reacted to PM Netanyahu’s annexation vow by praising his “adopting Blue and White’s plan for recognizing the Jordan Valley.”
Territorial annexation, be it de jure (legislatively promulgated) or de facto (realized in practice) constitutes a breach of the United Nations Charter Article 2(4), which requires all UN member states to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. The prohibition of annexation is a peremptory norm of international law—an inviolable and central pillar of the international legal order. Serious breaches of such absolute prohibitions (peremptory norms) trigger binding obligations for third States under IHL.
Moreover, in the context of the prolonged, occupation of Palestinian territory, Israel, the occupying power, is prohibited under International Humanitarian Law (IHL), from making permanent changes to the territory and its demographics.
The international community’s opposition to annexation is reflected in the decisions of the United Nations (UN). Since 1967, the UN has adopted numerous and comprehensive resolutions warning against Israel’s unlawful acquisition of Palestinian territory through the use of force. UN Security Council Resolution 465 (1 March 1980) imposed third state obligations “not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used in connection with settlements in the occupied territories.” Subsequent UN Security Resolution 478 (20 August 1980) deemed as “null and void” all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem.
Following and reaffirming these earlier resolutions, UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (23 December 2016), stated that Israel's settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law that has “no legal validity.” It further demanded that Israel halt settlement activity and fulfill its obligations as occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Despite these resolutions, no tangible action has been taken to halt or reverse the assertion of sovereignty by Israel in Jerusalem or ongoing de facto annexation of additional Palestinian territory, which has continued for more than half a century. This has included Israel’s ongoing de facto annexation of most of the West Bank, including settlements and huge swathes of surrounding territory, as well as designation by the occupying power of other areas as "closed military zones", or "nature reserves", as well as the separation and isolation of oPt territory behind the Wall. The International Court of Justice deemed these actions by the occupying power illegal 15 years ago and called for the immediate halt to construction of the Wall and provision of reparations.
Israel’s annexationist and other coercive actions against Palestinians not only directly contradict its substantial responsibilities as occupying power, they also significantly impede the realization of the Palestinian right to self-determination and cause widespread harm and hardship to the population under occupation.
International law makes clear that ultimately Israel must end its protracted occupation of Palestinian territory. Based on Israel’s unwavering continuation of effective territorial annexation and the increased assistance needs that flow from this conduct, AIDA members posit that prior international community measures aiming to halt and reverse these serious violations have been insufficient.
Accordingly, AIDA urgently calls on the international community to demand that Israel halt and reverse all forms of territorial annexation and threats thereof and to take immediate and decisive action to halt and reverse all annexation and further threatened annexation of Palestinian territory.