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Israel annexation: European lawmakers denounce 'de facto' takeover of the West Bank

Over 400 parliamentarians have called on EU nations and the Biden administration to work together to halt annexation
Israeli workers dismantle tents during a demolition operation of a Palestinian Bedouin encampment in the area of Humsa, in the Occupied West Bank on 22 February (AFP)

Hundreds of European lawmakers have sent a letter to foreign ministers in Europe, calling for the administration of US President Joe Biden to renew its efforts in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and halt the annexation of the West Bank.

The letter, which has been signed by 442 lawmakers from 22 European countries and was sent on Sunday, begins by stating that the previous Trump administration "left the conflict farther away from peace than ever".

'The Biden administration presents a chance to correct course and creates greater space for meaningful European engagement and leadership.'

- Joint letter by European parliamentarians to European leaders 

But under Biden, it says, there is a renewed chance to "correct course" and create "greater space for meaningful European engagement and leadership".

The letter highlights the fact that despite the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 saw the highest number of demolitions of Palestinian homes and structures in four years, including structures funded by European donors.

“The recent regional normalisation agreements with Israel led to the suspension of plans to formally annex West Bank territory. However, developments on the ground clearly point to a reality of rapidly progressing de facto annexation, especially through accelerated settlement expansion and demolitions of Palestinian structures,” the letter states. 

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The signatories also point out that settlement expansion policies that have accelerated on the ground are eliminating the possibility of a two-state solution, and worsening the conflict. 

"The recently approved construction of the Givat Hamatos settlement, previously referred to as Europe’s red line, is of particularly serious concern.

"Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate under the Israeli blockade, which is compounded by intra-Palestinian divisions. Gaza remains at risk of violent escalation at any moment."

The parliamentarians have used the letter to call on European leaders to work with the Biden administration as well as other European political parties to prevent actions that they say have undermined the possibility of peace. 

"In this effort, the EU and European countries should demonstrate their leadership, making use of their range of available policy tools...

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"Diplomatic, legal and financial support for Palestinian communities at risk of demolition and forcible transfer should be increased. Active European support for Palestinian reconciliation and elections across all the Palestinian territory is vital, including as a basis for ending the isolation of Gaza."

Out of the nearly 450 signatories, more than one-third come from UK lawmakers including members of the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties. Other signees come from Austria, Denmark, Malta, Norway, Greece, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden and Spain, among other nations.

Last month, a left-leaning Jewish advocacy group called on the Biden administration to ensure that no US weapons, funding or equipment are used in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian communities, following the destruction of one such community. 

J Street, in a statement, asked Biden to investigate Israeli demolitions to determine whether US-sourced defence materiel was used to demolish Palestinian homes, and whether such a use violates the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).

At the time, Israeli forces had demolished homes and other structures in the Palestinian village of Khirbet Humsa, in the northern West Bank's Jordan Valley.

Forces confiscated the Bedouin community's tents and livestock pens, bulldozed several structures, and attempted to forcibly transfer its residents to a new location.

Some 440,000 illegal Israeli settlers live among more than three million Palestinians in the West Bank, territory captured by Israel in a 1967 war and which Palestinians want as part of a future state.

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