The UN rights chief on Monday added her voice to international and national calls on Israel’s government not to proceed with its plans to annex a swathe of occupied Palestinian territory.
Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement that such annexation would have a disastrous impact on the human rights of Palestinians.
“Annexation is illegal. Period,” Bachelet said.
“I urge Israel to listen to its own former senior officials and generals, as well as to the multitude of voices around the world, warning it not to proceed along this dangerous path,” she added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last month that his government would formally annex the Jordan Valley and all settlement blocs in the West Bank.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is seen as occupied territory under international law, making all Jewish settlements there — as well as the planned annexation — illegal.
“The precise consequences of annexation cannot be predicted,” Bachelet said. “But they are likely to be disastrous for the Palestinians, for Israel itself, and for the wider region.”
The rights chief said that the UN chief has called on the Israeli Government to abandon its annexation plans.
“I back that call one hundred percent,” she added.
‘Serious human rights violations’
Bachelet noted that, along with others, any attempt to annex any part of the occupied Palestinian territory will seriously damage efforts to achieve lasting peace in the region.
She said: “It is likely to entrench, perpetuate and further heighten serious human rights violations that have characterized the conflict for decades.”
Restrictions on the right to freedom of movement would almost certainly increase substantially as Palestinian population centers become enclaves, she said.
“Palestinians living within the annexed zone would experience greater difficulty accessing essential services like education and health, and humanitarian access may also be hindered,” the UN high commissioner added.
Further, Palestinians would come under greater pressure to move out of the annexed zone, and entire communities that are currently not recognized under Israel’s planning regime would be at high risk of forcible transfer.
Palestinians outside the annexed zone risk seeing their access to natural resources cut off, their opportunity for natural growth removed, and even their ability to leave and return to their own country severely restricted.
“Settlements – already a clear violation of international law – will almost certainly expand, increasing the existing friction between the two communities,” said Bachelet.
“This is a highly combustible mix,” she said.
“I am deeply concerned that even the most minimalist form of annexation would lead to increased violence and loss of life, as walls are erected, security forces deployed and the two populations brought into closer proximity.”
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