ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday expressed concern over new Israeli unity government’s plan to annex parts of occupied West Bank and underscored similarities between Palestine and Kashmir conflicts.
“We have seen reports about the framework agreement by Israel’s coalition government proposing annexation of the West Bank with grave concern,” FO spokesperson Aisha Farooqi said at the weekly media briefing.
Under the power-sharing deal that led to the formation of Israel’s new unity government, Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival-turned-ally Benny Gantz have agreed to push ahead with the annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The annexation is scheduled for July 1, as per Netanyahu-Gantz agreement.
The deal brings back longest-serving Prime Minister Netanyahu to office for the record fifth time after yearlong electoral deadlock.
The annexation plan enjoys the blessings and support of the United States, although Tel Aviv and Washington have minor differences over the timing and scope of the move.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met Netanyahu and Gantz on Wednesday in Jerusalem, discussed the planned annexation.
About 0.6 million Jews live in the nearly 140 settlements in the West Bank constructed by Israel since 1967. The settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal under the international law and their construction has been condemned through multiple UN resolutions.
The Palestinians have always seen the West Bank as an integral part of their future state. They have, therefore, rejected the Israeli plan that is in accordance with President Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ under which settlements were to continue and the US would recognise Israeli sovereignty over swathes of the West Bank, including Jewish settlements and much of the Jordan river valley.
The East Jerusalem was also central to Palestinian aspirations for statehood, but the US in 2017 reversed its longstanding policy and moved its embassy to Jerusalem, thereby recognising it as Israeli capital and later also accepted Zionist state’s sovereignty over Golan Heights.
Pakistan has maintained an ambivalent position on the ‘Deal of Century’ because its Arab allies have been backing Mr Trump’s so-called Middle East Peace Plan.
However, on the annexation issue, the Foreign Office took a tough position, clearly stating its opposition to the proposed move.
Spokesperson Farooqui warned that the annexation could lead to a dangerous escalation in an already volatile situation.
“Pakistan supports the position adopted by the UN and OIC on the issue of Palestine and calls upon the international community to uphold and support the rights of the Palestinians,” she said and reiterated support for the two-state solution to the Palestine issue as enshrined in the relevant Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions.
“Pakistan renews its call for establishment of a viable, independent and contiguous state of Palestine, on the basis of internationally agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders, and with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital,” the spokesperson said.
Ms Farooqui, while recalling similarities between Palestine and Kashmir conflicts, said that the two were the oldest items on the UN and OIC agenda as occupying forces in both cases were committing massive human rights violations, seeking to alter the demographic structure and posing a threat to peace and security. Both these situations are worsening and call for urgent attention of the international community, she said.
Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2020