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Don't annex West Bank, church leaders tell Israel

Don't annex West Bank, church leaders tell Israel

By REBECCA PAVELEY15
CHURCH TIMES
MAY 2020

PHOTO: Israeli soldiers are seen during a search operation in Ya'bad, near the West Bank city of Jenin, on Tuesday. An Israeli soldier was killed by a stone thrown at him during a predawn raid

CHURCH leaders in Jerusalem have called on the Israeli government to "refrain" from its threatened annexation of land in the West Bank, or kill off any hope for peace.

In a strongly worded letter, church leaders, including the Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani, said that Israel's plan to "unilaterally annex West Bank land . . . raises serious and catastrophic questions about the feasibility of any peaceful agreement to end the decades' long conflict, one that continues to cost many innocent lives as part of a vicious cycle of human tragedy and injustice".

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, negotiated a right to annex parts of the West Bank from 1 July in the coalition deal that he signed with Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party. The unity government agreed between the two men was due to be sworn in on Thursday.

The leaders from Orthodox, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic Churches also called on the United States, Russia, the EU, and the UN to respond to the annexation plans with a peace initiative.

The World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches have also written to the EU about the annexation, saying that if it occurs it must be met with "real consequences" akin to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

"The EU must not be complicit -- by inaction or inadequate reaction -- in this outcome," they warned.

The US has said that it will leave it up to Israel to decide on annexation. The visit of the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to Jerusalem this week, however, was seen by some as a blessing for the Israeli annexation, although the US State Department only said that the purpose of the visit was to "discuss U.S. and Israeli efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as regional security issues related to Iran's malign influence".

The UK Government has said that it will not support any annexation. The Foreign Office Minister, James Cleverly, said: "The UK government has expressed both publicly, and indeed to the government of Israel, its concerns about reports of annexation which we have consistently said we oppose, and which could be detrimental to a two-state solution."

He said that the UK was "deeply concerned" about the new Israeli coalition government's plans, which, he said, were '' contradictory to international law.''

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