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Netanyahu Promises To Annex West Bank Settlements If Re-Elected

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he would extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea if reelected.

Speaking to the press a week before the election, Netanyahu also said that the Trump administration’s peace plan, which he said would be released days after the election, would provide a “historic opportunity” for annexing the West Bank and other areas.

“Out of respect for President Trump and out of great faith in our friendship, I will wait with applying sovereignty until release of the president’s political plan,” Netanyahu said. “As much as it is possible, I want to apply sovereignty in the communities and other areas with maximum coordination with the U.S … But there is one place where it is possible to apply Israeli sovereignty immediately after the election. If I receive a clear mandate to do so from you, the citizens of Israel.

“In recent months I have led a diplomatic effort in this direction, and the conditions for this have ripened,” he continued. “Today I am announcing my intention to apply, with the formation of the next government, Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea,” Netanyahu said, calling the area “Israel’s eastern border.”

Netanyahu’s election rivals criticized the announcement, with Kahol Lavan accusing him of trying to use Jordan Valley residents as extras in a campaign video. Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh said the announcement was more than mere propaganda, but was rather part of the right wing’s “vision of Apartheid.” The Democratic Union said that any uniliteral moves toward annexation would harm Israel’s security. Labor-Gesher Chairman Amir Peretz said the party was “proposing to apply sovereignty to the collapsing middle class and to the hundreds and thousands of children living under the poverty line.”

Soon before Netanyahu spoke, David Elhayani, Jordan Valley regional council chief thanked Netanyahu for a “historic moment for the State of Israel.”

A polling company working for Netanyahu’s Likud party has in recent days been asking voters about potential support by Donald Trump’s administration for annexation of various areas. Likud has denied the polling firm was working on its behalf.

It was not the first time Netanyahu promised to start extending Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, or parts of it. Just two days before the previous election in April, Netnayahu said that he will move to annex the West Bank if re-elected prime minister.

“A Palestinian state will endanger our existence and I withstood huge pressure over the past eight years, no prime minister has withstood such pressure. We must control our destiny,” the premier said.

Earlier this month Netanyahu said that he aspires to apply Israeli sovereignty on all Jewish West Bank settlements. Speaking at the West Bank settlement of Elkana, the prime minister vowed that there would be “no more uprooting [of settlements].”

Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party and the Democratic Union, a left-wing alliance, petitioned the Central Elections Committee to bar the live braodcast of Netanyahu’s statement, arguing it may amount to illegal electioneering. But the Committee’s chairman, Justice Hanan Melcer, struck down the petition.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh warned ahead of the announcement that Israel might declare plans to annex part of the West Bank as an election ploy on Netanyahu’s part. “The land of Palestine is not part of Netanyahu’s election campaign,” Shtayyeh said at a meeting with the Spanish consul. “If he believes that he will win votes in the short term by annexing the settlement blocs, then he and Israel are the losers in the long term.” Shtayyeh urged Spain and other European countries to recognize a Palestinian state as soon as possible, in line with the two-state solution.

On Monday, Netanyahu held another televised press conference, to announce that Israel has identified additional Iranian sites used to develop Tehran’s nuclear program. Benny Gantz and other opposition leaders slammed Netanyahu was using sensitive intelligence for political purposes in his address.

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