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Palestinian PM: Israel must face consequences over planned West Bank annexations

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Israel must face consequences if it annexes land in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Tuesday, pointing to possible European sanctions.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to extend sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, territory Israel took in the 1967 Middle East war and which Palestinians seek for a state.

Netanyahu’s new government is due to begin discussing the de facto annexation on July 1, but it is unclear whether Israel’s main ally, the United States, would greenlight the step.

The Palestinians have rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace blueprint, announced in January, under which most of the settlements Israel built would be incorporated into “contiguous Israeli territory”.

At a news conference, Shtayyeh said annexation would kill any possibility of peace with Israel and erode “the Palestinian, regional and international consensus” on a two-state solution.

He said Israel must now “feel the heat of international pressure”.

European states, Shtayyeh said, were debating “sanctions on Israel and freezing association agreements, as well as cancelling some research programmes” and “recognising Palestine” as a state in the West Bank and Gaza.

Most countries view Israel’s settlements on occupied land as illegal. Israel disputes this. Palestinians now exercise limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank while Palestinian Islamist group Hamas rules tiny Gaza.

But Shtayyeh said the 27-nation European Union’s consensus decision-making was “a bit complicated”, and one or two countries were not in line with others on the issue.

An EU spokesman in Jerusalem declined comment on Shtayyeh’s remarks but pointed to an earlier statement from EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell which said that annexation, “if implemented, could not pass unchallenged”.

Shtayyeh said the Palestinians submitted a four-and-a-half page counter-proposal to Trump’s plan to the Quartet of Middle East mediators - the United States, Russia, the European Union and United Nations.

The proposal included a demilitarised Palestinian state with “minor border modification wherever it is needed” and exchanges of land equal “in size and volume and in value - one to one”, Shtayyeh added.

The Palestinians have declared agreements with Israel void in protest against annexation. Shtayyeh said his government’s rejection of taxes collected by Israel on its behalf meant salaries would not be paid to some 130,000 public workers.

(This story corrects to show that PM did provide some details of Palestinians’ counter-proposal to Trump plan.)

Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich