UK's most senior church officials oppose Israel's annexation plans

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The two most senior church officials in the United Kingdom Friday expressed their opposition to any Israeli move to annex West Bank territory in separate letters to the British prime minister and Israel’s envoy in the UK.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster wrote to both the Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev, and the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, expressing their opposition to any move by the Government of Israel to annex West Bank territory after 1 July 2020,” according to the joint statement released by both churches.

Archbishop Justin Welby and Cardinal Vincent Nichols said their opposition followed warnings from the leaders of Churches in the Holy Land that pushing ahead with the annexation would “bring about the loss of any remaining hope for the success of the peace process.”

Although the letters penned by the church officials stated their support to the right of Israel’s citizens to live in peace and safety, this would only be possible through negotiation and not annexation, Welby and Nichols said.

“It is essential that both Israelis and Palestinians may live without violence or the threat of violence from each other or other armed groups, the Cardinal and Archbishop emphasized,” the joint statement read.

The Israeli government intends to begin debating annexation on July 1. While the move won support in US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, an Israeli minister on Thursday said there were gaps with Washington on the issue and that the two allies had yet to agree on a map of territorial lines.

Palestinians want the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war – for an envisaged future independent state.

They say annexation would make that impossible, and have called for international sanctions against Israel.

Arab and European countries have voiced concern over unilateral territorial moves that could jeopardize a two-state solution to the conflict.

On Friday, UAE ambassador to Washington, Youssef Al Otaiba, wrote an op-ed published in Hebrew in one of Israel’s most prominent newspapers.

In it, Otaiba warned that “annexation would – certainly and immediately – upend all Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and the UAE.”

Although Israel has no diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab countries, common concerns over Iran’s regional influence have led to a limited thaw in ties.

In May, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad made the first known flight by a UAE carrier to Israel, carrying coronavirus aid for the Palestinians.

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