PLO says Israel 'annexation' plan means end of two-state solution

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi says Israeli plans to incorporate West Bank settlement blocs around Jerusalem into the city could kill hopes for an independent Palestinian state.

A member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party has said that draft legislation to form a "Greater Jerusalem" municipality would go to a ministerial committee on Sunday for adoption as a government bill.

Approval by the committee would fast-track its progress through parliament.

Those opposed to the plans argue that it is a step towards full unilateral annexation of the West Bank settlements affected -- a move that would be sure to spark international outrage.

"The government will approve the Greater Jerusalem law that will strengthen the eternal capital Jerusalem -- demographically and geographically," Likud MP Yoav Kisch wrote Wednesday on Twitter.

Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee, said late Wednesday in a statement that "such efforts represent the end of the two-state solution."

"Israel is in the business of prolonging the military occupation and not ending it, legalising the presence of extremist Jewish settlers on Palestinian soil, and completing the total isolation and annexation of Palestinian Jerusalem," she wrote.

Israel occupied the West Bank, including, east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

It sees the entire city as its indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

Prominent members of Netanyahu's coalition openly oppose the idea of a Palestinian state and advocate annexing most of the West Bank.

The major settlement of Maaleh Adumim, east of Jerusalem, would be among the areas absorbed into the enlarged city limits under the draft legislation, according to an explanatory note by its sponsors.

The settlements mentioned however would not be fully annexed to Israel.

Also incorporated would be the ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlement of Beitar Illit, southwest of Jerusalem, the Gush Etzion settlement bloc to the south and Efrat and Givat Zeev settlements.

"The settlements joined to Jerusalem will maintain certain municipal autonomy, since they will be considered sub-municipalities of Jerusalem," the draft bill says.

Haaretz newspaper on Thursday said the wording meant the settlements would be annexed to the city of Jerusalem rather than to the state of Israel.

But settlement watchdog Peace Now said any difference was purely cosmetic.

"The meaning of the bill is a de-facto annexation of these territories to Israel, even if it would be possible to argue that this will not constitute de-jure annexation," it said in a statement.