Israel’s foreign minister has suggested an announcement on the planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank was not imminent on Wednesday, the date set by Israel’s coalition government to start the widely criticised process.
The statement by Gabi Ashkenazi came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government’s discussions with the United States on the annexation plan would continue “in the coming days”, indicating he would miss the self-imposed July 1 target date to begin debate on the controversial issue.
“I reckon there will be nothing today,” Ashkenazi, a member of the centrist Blue and White party that eventually partnered up with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud after three inconclusive elections, told Israel’s Army Radio on Wednesday.
In a sign of rifts within the coalition over the timing of any unilateral annexation move, which has been fiercely opposed by the Palestinians and most of the international community, Ashkenazi referred further questions on the matter by the interviewer to Netanyahu.
It also came after Benny Gantz, alternate prime minister and defence minister, said this week that annexation must wait until the coronavirus crisis has been contained. Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White party, is due to take over as prime minister in November 2021 under the terms of the coalition deal.
Netanyahu may still move forward, either later on Wednesday or in the coming days, with reports in Israeli media suggesting he may announce a symbolic move such as the annexation of one illegal settlement on Jerusalem’s outskirts.
Meanwhile, Palestinians began gathering in Gaza City for a demonstration against the plan, with rallies in the West Bank also scheduled for later in the day.
“For Palestinian officials, annexation is still on the table, whether it happens gradually or delayed for weeks and months,” said Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority.
“They say this is just one step further of institutionalising and cementing the Israeli occupation.”
Netanyahu has been eager to start the controversial process, which is in line with President Donald Trump’s so-called Middle East plan, by Wednesday.
Unveiled in late January and rejected by the Palestinians, the plan offered a path for Israel to annex territory and Jewish West Bank settlements, communities considered illegal under international law.
It also proposes the establishment of a demilitarised Palestinian state on a patchwork of disjointed parts of the Palestinian territories.
Palestinian leaders have said they are willing to renew long-stalled talks with Israel – but not on the terms outlined in the Trump proposal.
“We will not sit on a table where the American-Israeli plan is on the table,” said Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization. “This is not a peace plan from Netanyahu, it’s an annexation, apartheid … and we will not sit on any table.”
Hamas, which administers the besieged Gaza Strip, says Israeli annexations in the West Bank would be a “declaration of war”.
The planned Israeli annexation would deprive Palestinians of key agricultural land and water resources, especially in the Jordan Valley region.
It would also effectively kill the likelihood of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict that was based on the idea of land for peace.
But many Palestinians would argue that the annexation is merely a formality for what has already been happening on the ground in the West Bank for years.
Increased settlement construction over the past years, along with Jewish-settler-only roads that connect to Israel, have carved the territory up, resulting in non-contiguous Palestinian cities, towns and villages that now exist in cantons.
While the US has offered tacit support for immediate annexation as part of the Trump plan, most of the international community is vocally opposed to the project.
The UN secretary-general, the EU and key Arab countries have all said Israeli annexation would violate international law and undermine the goal of establishing a viable independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Jordan, one of only two Arab nations that have diplomatic ties with Israel, has warned that annexation could trigger a “massive conflict” and has not ruled out reviewing its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
Writing in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said although he was a “passionate defender of Israel”, he viewed annexation as “contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests.”
“Annexation would represent a violation of international law,” he said.
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Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.
Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.
Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation
The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
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