Maas becomes first diplomat to visit Israel since establishment of new Israeli government
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday that Israel’s annexation of the West Bank will be a violation of international law.
“Europe regards annexation as a violation of international law,” Maas told a joint press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
Maas, who is the first diplomat to visit Israel since the formation of the Israeli government last month, did not refer to specific European responses to the annexation decision once implemented.
He stressed that the aim of his visit to Israel was to “learn more about Israel’s plans”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that his government intends to annex the Jordan Valley and all settlement blocs in the West Bank early next month.
“There are currently important regional opportunities, most notably the US President Donald Trump’s peace initiative,” Ashkenazi said, referring to the so-called “deal of the century”.
“We expect the international community to make clear to the Palestinians that their refusal to participate will not serve Palestinian interests,” he said.
The German foreign minister was scheduled to visit the Palestinian territories, but Israel informed him that if he entered Ramallah, he would have to be quarantined because of the coronavirus.
Maas is scheduled to talk to Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh on the phone.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is seen as occupied territory under international law, thus making all Jewish settlements there – as well as the planned annexation – illegal.
Palestinian officials have threatened to abolish bilateral agreements with Israel if it goes ahead with the annexation, which will further undermine the two-state solution.
The annexation comes as part of US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century”, which was announced on Jan. 28. It refers to Jerusalem as “Israel’s undivided capital” and recognizes Israeli sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank.
The plan states the establishment of a Palestinian state in the form of an archipelago connected through bridges and tunnels.
Palestinian officials say that under the US plan, Israel will annex 30-40% of the West Bank, including all of East Jerusalem.