Nickolay Mladenov, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, expressed grave concern on Wednesday, January 22 regarding Israeli plans to annex the occupied Jordan Valley, stressing that such a step would have devastating effects on the region.
“The annexation of some or all of Area C in the West Bank, if implemented, would deal a devastating blow to the potential of reviving Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, advancing regional peace, and the essence of the two-state solution,” said Mladenov in a tweet.
Far-right Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main electoral rival, Blue &White head MK Benny Gantz, have each pledged in recent days to annex the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea and the illegal settlements located in Area C in the occupied West Bank if they win the upcoming Israeli elections.
Netanyahu’s and Gantz’s individual calls were also strongly condemned by the office of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, which issued a statement saying that the positions expressed for the premiership of Israel threaten peace and stability in the region. Presidential spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said “Such statements are a blow to the foundations of the peace process that would take the region to a dangerous new phase of conflict and instability. The presidency warns all Israeli parties that make such statements of their implications on overall Palestinian-Israeli relations, including the signed agreements and mutual obligations between the two parties,” and called on the international community to stand firm against these Israeli positions “that threaten security, stability and world peace.”
The Palestinian government also condemned the Netanyahu and Gantz statements on the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, warning that they would take the region into “a new cycle of conflict that will threaten world peace and security.”
Ibrahim Melhem, the spokesman for the Palestinian government headed by Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, said in a statement that the government has called on countries around the world, particularly those participating in the 50th session of the World Economic Forum, held in Davos, Switzerland, “to take preventive measures against the expected Israeli move by recognizing the independent State of Palestine within the June 4, 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to follow the example of Sweden, whose recognition of the State of Palestine was a model for turning political positions and convictions into actions.”
An editorial published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Thursday, January 23 opined: “With this tilt to the right and irresponsible promises of annexation, both [Netanyahu and Gantz] may end up taking a step that endangers Israel’s future. However, even if this is all just hollow campaign rhetoric, the annexation discourse Gantz has adopted should cause concern among those who see him as a center-left candidate for prime minister, and raises questions about his diplomatic vision. Blue & White heads the camp that is seeking an alternative to the right-wing rule of Netanyahu and the settlers. While this camp is not ideologically uniform, if the choice is between establishing an official apartheid regime by annexing territories without granting citizenship to the Palestinians who live in them and dividing the territory [between two states] as part of a diplomatic agreement, it prefers the second option. This camp needs a leader with the guts to offer a diplomatic alternative to that of Netanyahu. Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, got it right when he said, ‘The state’s citizens deserve hope, not an imitation. This is not how you replace a prime minister.’”
There was intense opposition to Gantz’s copycat pledge from Hadash and the Joint List parliamentary faction. Joint List leader, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) described Gantz’s pledge as “a pathetic attempt to gather a few votes on the right,” and said that annexing the Jordan Valley would “destroy any chance for democracy and peace.” MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash – Joint List) said, “If this is the response to the hollow spin of the right-wing it shows a lack of self-confidence. The Joint List its not in the pocket of Mr. Gantz.” Cassif jibed, “Either way it clearly shows that voters of the peace camp have nothing to look for in Blue & White.”