Israel annexation plan in West Bank condemned by UN human rights experts

United Nations human rights experts say that Israel's plan to annex significant parts of the occupied West Bank would violate international law banning the taking of territory by force, and they urge other countries to actively oppose it.

Joint statement draws comparison with South Africa's apartheid system

Israeli activists hold placards during a protest on May 15 in front of the U.S. ambassador's residence in Jerusalem. The Trump administration has given the green light to Israel to annex Jewish settlements and other territory in the occupied West Bank. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images)

United Nations human rights experts said on Tuesday that Israel's plan to annex significant parts of the occupied West Bank would violate international law banning the taking of territory by force, and urged other countries to actively oppose it.

A joint statement, signed by nearly 50 independent experts, also voiced dismay at U.S. support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "unlawful" plan to extend sovereignty, de facto annexation of land that the Palestinians seek for a state.

"The annexation of occupied territory is a serious violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions, and contrary to the fundamental rule affirmed many times by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly that the acquisition of territory by war or force is inadmissible," it said.

What would be left of the West Bank after annexation of about 30 per cent would amount to a "Palestinian Bantustan, islands of disconnected land completely surrounded by Israel and with no territorial connection to the outside world," it said, in a reference to South Africa's poverty-stricken "homelands," where black people were confined during apartheid.

Israel's foreign ministry declined comment. Netanyahu has set July 1 as the date to begin advancing his plan to annex Israel's settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, hoping for a green light from Washington.

Palestinians reject proposal

U.S. President Donald Trump has unveiled a peace plan that includes Israel keeping its settlements and the Palestinians establishing a state under stringent conditions.

Palestinians have rejected the proposal and voiced outrage at Israel's proposed annexation.

"We welcome the [UN experts'] statement as a reminder for the international community of its responsibilities, of the gravity of the situation and of the urgency to implement accountability measures to end the illegal colonial-settlement enterprise, including annexation, to save the prospects of peace and to support a rules-based world order," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Tuesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu checks the area map during a visit to Ariel settlement in the West Bank on Feb. 24. Netanyahu would emerge as PM again after negotiations following the March election, giving him impetus to move forward with annexation plans as early as this summer. (Sebastian Scheiner/The Associated Press)

The UN experts said Israeli violations against Palestinians have included land confiscation, settler violence, home demolitions, excessive use of force and torture, restrictions on media and freedom of expression, and "a two-tier system of disparate political, legal, social, cultural and economic rights based on ethnicity and nationality."

"These human rights violations would only intensify after annexation," they added.