UK church leaders criticise Israeli government plans for West Bank

Two UK church leaders have written to the Israeli Ambassador and the British Prime Minister, criticising Israel’s government’s proposed plan to annex Palestinian land this year.

The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, both oppose Israel’s plans for Israeli armed forces to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank.

The proposed annexations, which will begin next month, were promised by the Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu during his election campaign.

Nichols’ and Welby’s letters followed a statement leaders of Holy Land churches made on 7 May, warning that the proposed action would “bring about the loss of any remaining hope for the success of the peace process.”

Thirteen Christian leaders, including the heads of the local Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Coptic churches signed the 7 May statement.

The UK church leaders say they “support the fundamental right of Israel’s citizens to live in peace and safety.” At the same time, they think this will only be possible through a negotiated peace.

Both Israelis and Palestinians must live without violence or the threat of violence, the Welby and Nichols stress.

Humanitarian organisations and the international community have also criticised the proposed annexations.

A particularly controversial aspect of the plans has been Netanyahu’s promise that Palestinian living in annexed areas would not be eligible for Israeli citizenship or residence rights.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967. However, commentators say an official take-over of the region could inflame tensions across the Middle East.

Palestinian leaders are concerned, saying the moves would void existing security arrangements and treaties between the two nations. Neighbouring countries like Jordan have suggested annexations could spark a much wider conflict.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation in Israel and Palestine, as it is undermining economic and social stability in both nations.


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