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Hundreds of European lawmakers condemn Israeli plans annex parts of West Bank

“Acquisition of territory by force has no place in 2020 and must have commensurate consequences," said the letter.
Image: A Jewish settler
A Jewish settler at the entrance of a temporary structure in the Jewish settler outpost of Maoz Ester in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Tuesday. Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

LONDON — Israel's plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank would be “fatal to the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace,” according to a letter signed by more than 1,000 lawmakers from 25 European countries.

Politicians from countries including the United Kingdom, Germany and France expressed “serious concerns” about the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan and the prospect of imminent Israeli annexation of occupied territory, in the letter to European governments published Tuesday.

Unilateral annexation would be “fatal to the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace,” the letter said. “Acquisition of territory by force has no place in 2020 and must have commensurate consequences.”

Image: Palestinians argue with Israeli soldiers
Palestinians argue with Israeli soldiers during a protest against Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, in Susya village last week. Mussa Qawasma / Reuters

A spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry was not immediately able to comment.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Cabinet discussions would begin as early as July 1 on his plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to territory in the West Bank, land that Palestinians seek for a future state. Annexation was one of Netanyahu's major campaign pledges in a bid to win over right-wing voters before the election in March.

It remains unclear exactly what land Netanyahu plans to annex, but he has indicated that it will fit within the Trump administration’s plan for peace in the region, which was announced in January.

The U.S. plan would allow Israel to annex about a third of the West Bank, including major settlement blocs, as well as the strategic and fertile Jordan Valley, the region's breadbasket, on the border with Jordan.

However, Palestinians have emphatically rejected the plan as unworkable and skewed toward Israel. Palestinians hope the territory, which was captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, will form a major part of a future Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

It remains unclear whether the U.S. will greenlight unilateral annexation if there is no sign of Israeli negotiations with the Palestinians. Israel's agreeing to negotiations was one of the conditions for the U.S. to recognize Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, a senior administration official told NBC News this year.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Wednesday that decisions about extending sovereignty were for Israel to make and that the Palestinians had rejected the Trump administration’s Mideast peace deal “out of hand.”

It is not the first time members of the international community have spoken out against Israel's annexation plans.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in February that annexation, "if implemented, could not pass unchallenged." It remains unclear, however, what this challenge would look like.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed hope Tuesday that Israel would listen to international calls and not go ahead with its annexation plans.

The U.N. has been consistently conveying the message “that annexation would be not only against international law but it would be a major factor to destabilize the region,” he told The Associated Press.

His remarks came ahead of a high-level U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday where annexation was expected to be discussed.

In April, Arab countries said implementing the annexation plan would be a “new war crime” against Palestinians, according to Reuters.

Image: Protesters in Tel Aviv
Protesters gather in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to denounce Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, on Tuesday. Jack Guez / AFP - Getty Images

As international opposition to Israel's annexation plans grows, Israeli border police shot dead a Palestinian man Tuesday who they said had tried to run his car into a border officer at a checkpoint in the West Bank.

Palestinian officials, however, disputed the Israeli police’s account of what happened to the man, identified as Ahmed Erekat.

One Veteran Palestinian politician, Hanan Ashrawi, described the death as “cold-blooded murder." She said Erekat was on his way to pick up his mother and sister who were preparing for his sister’s wedding later that day when he was "executed."

“Israel continues its policy of shoot first and ask questions later, with full impunity and in the absence of accountability from a dysfunctional international community,” Ashrawi said in a statement.

“This shooting is symptomatic of a brutal and racist system of structural violence that treats Palestinian lives and rights with abject disdain, considering the lives of our young men and women discardable.”

In the U.S., 116 Republicans in the House of Representatives sent a letter to Netanyahu on Monday defending Israel’s right to make “sovereign decisions independent of outside pressure.”

“We are aware of and deeply concerned by threats being expressed by some to retaliate against Israel as it makes decisions to ensure defensible borders,” the letter said.

It comes as another letter is currently circulating among Democrats in the House that warns Israel against unilateral annexation.

“Our fear is that unilateral actions, taken by either side, will push the parties further from negotiations and the possibility of a final, negotiated agreement,” says the letter, which was obtained by NBC News from a House Democratic aide and as of Wednesday morning had attracted 171 signatories.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.