In a move perceived as a toughening of its stance on Israel, the UK Labour Party has called for banning the import of goods from illegal settlements in the West Bank if the Israeli government proceeds with its announced plan of extending sovereignty over parts of the West Bank this week, reported The Observer.
The proposal was put forward by Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, and backed by Labour leader Keir Starmer.
“The proposal to unilaterally annex nearly a third of the West Bank is an illegal act which will undermine the prospect of a peaceful two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and has serious implications for the stability of the Middle East… It is a shameful proposition to which the UK cannot be a silent witness. Across the world concern is growing … So far the UK government has been conspicuously absent from this global response”, said Nandy.
While in its 2019 party manifesto the opposition called for a diplomatic solution to the issue, the current proposed move would be a “major step” and require “courage that so far ministers have not been willing to show”, said Nandy.
The Labour Party shadow secretary insisted that if Israel went ahead with its plans, “such a blatant breach of international law must have consequences”, while acknowledging that the UK might be discouraged from taking drastic measures in light of the support Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans have received from the US administration.
Although Britain might be concerned lest such moves jeopardise the future UK-US trade deal, the country has a “unique moral responsibility”, according to Nandy.
“Should we fail to do so, the world will pay the price for a long time to come”, underscored the shadow minister.
UK Urged to ‘Act Decisively’
Boris Johnson, who earlier in June reaffirmed support for a two-state solution in the region and told MPs that Downing Street “strongly objected” to the Israeli plan, has come under pressure to take concrete action should Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposals be implemented.
Last week, Israeli plans to incorporate parts of the West Bank were opposed by more than 1,000 European parliamentarians, who signed a letter, saying that “acquisition of territory by force … must have commensurate consequences” and urging European leaders to “act decisively”.
The letter was also signed by 240 UK signatories, including Michael Howard, a former Conservative party leader; Chris Patten, former Conservative party chairman and governor of Hong Kong; Pauline Neville-Jones, former chair of the British joint intelligence committee; and George Robertson, former NATO secretary general.
The UK government’s clear stance on the consequences of Israel's “illegal annexation move” will be demanded on 29 June, writes the outlet, by a coalition of UK-based humanitarian, development, human rights, and faith organisations.
Britain should formally recognise the state of Palestine and “end all trade with illegal settlements” in response to Israel’s extension plans, a representative of Christian Aid, a member of the coalition, William Bell, was quoted as saying.
Conservative MP and former chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Crispin Blunt was quoted as believing that the UK government “should have made clear [to Israel] there is going to be a price” for the “annexation” plan, resulting in a possible curtailment of trade agreements between the two countries.
Ex-British Consul-General to Jerusalem Sir Vincent Fean urged that the UK government recognise the state of Palestine alongside Israel in conformity with the pre-1967 borders, adding that the consequences of Israel’s move should include a ban on import of “goods produced in illegal settlements”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was previously reported as having unveiled several plans on incorporating parts of the West Bank to his coalition government partner from the Blue and White Alliance, Defence Minister and alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz.
The proposed plan has been condemned by most Arab countries, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations as potentially endangering the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians.
On 24 June, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Israel at a Security Council meeting to abandon its plans to “annex parts of the occupied West Bank”, underscoring that this would constitute a serious violation of international law.
Since the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan, it has constructed 130 major settlements, currently home to around 500,000 Israelis, with the country never formally claiming it as Israeli territory.
US President Donald Trump's much-touted “deal of the century”, unveiled on 28 January, presupposed Israel extending its sovereignty over one third of the West Bank. Trump's proposed two-state solution in the region would allow for the creation of a demilitarised Palestinian state.
In late May, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas terminated all treaties with the US and Israel in response to the announced plans.