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Palestinian presidency condemns Israeli bill to annex Maale Adumim

Jan. 20, 2017 7:22 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 22, 2017 7:01 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned plans by Israel's ultra-right Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party to introduce a bill to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, seeking to annex Maale Adumim, one of Israel’s largest illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

According to Israeli media, the bill is expected to be introduced Sunday, just two days following the official inauguration of US President Donald Trump, a vocal supporter of illegal Israeli settlements. 

Israeli officials have delayed moving forward various legislation in recent weeks, publicly stating they will more easily advance plans to expand Israeli settlements and consolidate Israeli annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory under the Trump administration.

“Any Israeli decision regarding annexing the settlement of Maale Adumim will be looked at as dangerous escalation and will not be accepted,” Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh was quoted by Palestinian news agency Wafa as saying on Friday.

“This step will end any connection to any peace process, particularly if it is accompanied by moving the US embassy to Jerusalem,” said Abu Rudeineh. “This measure will lead to a new phase that cannot be controlled.”

The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the "Judaization" of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes.

Trump’s campaign promise of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has been met with applause by right-wing Israeli officials and strongly condemned by Palestinians and the international community.

“We again warn against any step that violates United Nations resolutions, particularly the recent Security Council resolution which considered settlements illegitimate in all the territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem” Rudeineh said, referring to an anti-settlement resolution that passed in the UNSC last month, sparking outrage among Israeli officials.

“If Israel crosses this red line, then all red lines will be ruptured,” he added. “There will be no peace and no stability without the creation of an independent (Palestinian) state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Maale Adumim is the third largest settlement in population size, encompassing a large swath of land deep inside the occupied West Bank. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli suburban city of Jerusalem, despite it being located on occupied Palestinian territory in contravention of international law.

Calls to annex the massive settlement -- to pave the way for the annexation of the majority of the occupied West Bank -- have gained momentum among Israel’s lawmakers and ministers following the passage of a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements and reaffirming their illegality under international law.

Bennett reacted to the UN Security Council's resolution by calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rescind his support for the two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state, which Bennett perceives to be a security threat to the state of Israel.

“No resolution can change the fact that this land, Jerusalem, is our capital. And no people can be a conqueror in their own land. That’s why this resolution, like many of the earlier resolutions, will be thrown into the dustbin of history,” Bennett said.

Following the Trump's election, Bennett said that a Trump presidency would mark the end of a push for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

“This is the position of the president-elect, as written in his platform, and it should be our policy, plain and simple. The era of a Palestinian state is over,” he said.

Netanyahu has warned Bennett and Israeli politicians not to make public declarations related to annexation for fear that the calls would spark further action by the international community.

Meanwhile, former US Secretary of State John Kerry has criticized Netanyahu for publicly claiming to advocate a two-state solution while simultaneously championing settlement policy to appeal to an increasingly right-wing government and Israeli public.

“His current coalition is the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme elements,” Kerry said in a speech earlier this month. “The result is that policies of this government -- which the prime minister himself just described as ‘more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history’ -- are leading in the opposite direction, toward one state,” Kerry said.

While members of the international community have rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, Israeli leaders have instead shifted further to the right, with more than 50 percent of the ministers in the current Israeli government having publicly stated they are opposed to a Palestinian state.

A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.

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