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EU Member States can still avert Israel's annexation plans, says UPH chairman in op-ed

27 May 2020 – It is not too late for Member states of the European Union to unite against Israel’s planned annexation of Palestinian territories on the West Bank. This was argued by Robert Serry, chairman of UPEACE Centre The Hague, in an op-ed published in Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad.

Serry wrote this article in his capacity as former United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process in Jerusalem from 2008 to 2015. He expressed concern over plans of the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – in line with a peace plan presented by U.S. president Donald Trump – to annex 30% of the Palestinian territories on the West Bank, leaving the rest for a future Palestinian mini-state under specific conditions.


At a video conference of the EU Foreign Ministers on May 15, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell announced a strong diplomatic protest against the planned annexation. But previous EU condemnations of Israel’s settlement policy on the West Bank have not led to actual steps, and PM Netanyahu is aware that the Member States are divided on the issue.


The Israeli plans would effectively scupper the two-state solution supported by the EU. The UN’s present Middle East peace envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, has warned that the annexation would represent “a most serious violation of international law” and threaten efforts to advance regional and international peace. The Palestinian side has already rejected any peace deal that does not offer a solution for the status of Jerusalem and the fate of the Palestinian refugees.


Serry warns that a single state that includes nearly as many Palestinian as Jewish inhabitants would risk creating an apartheid state. This one-state option is far removed from the aspiration of most Israeli Jews to live in a mainly Jewish state, as the Zionist movement had originally intended.


Despite its internal divisions on the matter, Europe can still turn the tide, says Serry, if a critical mass of Member States is ready to act against the annexation by recognizing the Palestinian state, under the condition that the Palestinian side accepts the EU’s parameters for peace negotiations (as laid down in the European Council Conclusions of July 22, 2014).  This would create a whole new playing field for future peace talks, with Israel supporting the US proposals and the Palestinians embracing the EU parameters. Together with its Benelux partners, the Netherlands could play a crucial role in forging a majority within the EU in favour of recognizing the Palestinian state.


Robert Serry’s op-ed in NRC Handelsblad of 24 May 2020, titled After the war, Israel must also win the peace, can be found here. (in Dutch)


See also web article UPEACE The Hague chairman joins former EU leaders' call for Israel-Palestine two-state solution here.