Netanyahu vows to annex part of West Bank after Israel election

Illustrative image of a mud brick house in the Palestinian village of Jiftlik in the Jordan

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday his intention to annex Jordan Valley in occupied West Bank if he wins next week's general elections, Reuters quoted an Israeli TV channel as saying.

The proposal was dismissed by opponents as election theatrics, who have accused Netanyahu of trying to divert attention from a corruption scandal and Israel's security challenges. It would essentially slice off the entire eastern edge of the West Bank and mean Jericho is a Palestinian island inside Israel territory.

When Netanyahu promised annexation at the end of August, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, replied that the announcement was a "continuation of attempts to create an unacceptable fait accompli that will not lead to any peace, security or stability".

The US peace plan "is an historic opportunity to apply Israeli sovereignty over settlements in Judea and Samaria", he said, using the Jewish biblical names of the southern and northern West Bank. Many moderate Israelis believe Israel should retain some element of control in the area under a peace deal.

Israeli settlements are located in around 60 percent of the West Bank, including the vast majority of the Jordan Valley. It is home to many Palestinian farms and also is one of the few remaining areas of the territory where the Palestinians have open space to develop.

Netanyahu says Israel must lay out its vision as President Donald Trump prepares to unveil his Mideast peace plan.

It's a move advocacy groups said would violate global law and the human rights of Palestinians.

Netanyahu vows to annex part of West Bank after Israel election
Netanyahu vows to annex part of West Bank after Israel election

Its settlements there are considered illegal under global law and major stumbling blocks to peace as they are built on land the Palestinian see as part of their future state.

Netanyahu was not clear about the fate of the Palestinians.

In an interview with the New York Times in June, U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that "under certain circumstances" Israel has the "right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank".

Jordan's foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, condemned the announcement. "You pull out a core member, perhaps the core member at the working level - it speaks to the absence of seriousness and credibility", said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official. "Such a prospect would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations, regional peace, and the very essence of a two-state solution".

Netanyahu's challengers accused him of playing politics.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a news conference in Tel Aviv on September 10, 2019.

Netanyahu billed Tuesday's announcement as "dramatic", but it was essentially a repetition of promises he has made since April, when Israelis went to the polls in the first round election. He also claimed to have located a previously unknown Iranian nuclear weapons facility, and later this week, flies to Russian Federation for a lightning meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

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