Palestine will declare statehood over all of the West Bank and Gaza, with Jerusalem as its capital, and push for global recognition if Israel goes ahead with plans to annex land it occupies, the Palestinian prime minister has said.
Mohammad Shtayyeh described the possible step pledged by the Israeli leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, as an “existential threat” to a decades-long international effort for Israelis and Palestinians to reach an agreement that establishes two states side by side.
He said Palestine would not continue to wait on statehood just to honour previous agreements made with Israel if it broke them by annexing territory. “It takes two to tango.”
Shtayyeh said he was leading a concerted push to gather diplomatic pressure against Israel and wanted world powers to threaten sanctions on Netanyahu’s government so that “Israel does not get away with murder”.
“What we want is that Israel should feel the heat,” Shtayyeh said at a press conference held by the local Foreign Press Association in Ramallah on Tuesday.
Palestinian leaders have declared statehood in the past, including Yasser Arafat in 1988. In 2012, Palestine gained UN observer state status. However, with the Palestinian territories remaining occupied by Israel, and in the absence of an agreement, there has not been full international recognition.
Shtayyeh, for example, is the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, a body created in 1994 and intended to be a pre-state interim government.
“The fruits of peace have never actually materialised since the signing of the agreement,” Shtayyeh said.
With Israeli forces in control of the Palestinian territories, any declaration of statehood would be largely symbolic. However, Shtayyeh’s government might hope that growing international unease over Israel’s annexation plans could encourage governments to formally back Palestinian claims.
His comments will also be interpreted as further exasperation from the Palestinian leadership, which has seen Israel – with backing from Donald Trump – move to solidify its already tight territorial grip.
Palestinian officials have been scrambling to respond to Israeli threats of annexation for months. In May, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, announced that all previous agreements signed with the US and Israel, including security cooperation, were void.
During the past year, Netanyahu has made repeated promises to annex, or “apply sovereignty” to, different areas of the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967.
Under a unity government deal, the Israeli leader has pushed to bring annexation plans to the cabinet for discussion as soon as 1 July.
“We’re waiting and pushing for Israel not to annex,” Shtayyeh said. “If Israel is going to annex after July 1st, we are going to go from the interim period of the Palestinian Authority into the manifestation of a state on the ground.
“What does a manifestation of the state on the ground mean? It means that there will be a foundational council. There will be a constitutional declaration. And Palestine will be on the borders of 67, with Jerusalem as its capital. And we will call on the international community to recognise this land. That is where we are.”
In a phone conversation last week with James Cleverly, the UK’s minister for the Middle East and north Africa, Shtayyeh called on London to recognise Palestine as a state.
Cleverly had told parliament in May that the UK would not support Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank because it would make a “two-state solution” harder to achieve. The UK has not recognised Palestinian statehood.
Shtayyeh, however, said he was optimistic that European governments would consider recognising Palestine as a response to annexation. “I think the British government and all European governments are really looking at this very seriously. The tone I have heard was very different, too,” he said.
Asked for comment, a British Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The UK will recognise a Palestinian state at a time of our choosing, and when it best serves the objective of peace.”
(Source: The Guardian)