Israel's Netanyahu pushes Jordan Valley, West Bank settlements annexation plan as third election looms

Israel's Netanyahu pushes Jordan Valley, West Bank settlements annexation plan as third election looms
Netanyahu has claimed Israel has the 'full right' to annex the Jordan Valley and settlements in the occupied West Bank.
3 min read
08 December, 2019
The Israeli prime minister made the pledge earlier this year [AFP]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday reitirated his pledge to annex a swathe of the occupied West Bank in a last-ditch effort to prevent another general election.

"It's time to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and legalise all the Judea and Samaria settlements, those that are in settlement blocs and those outside of them," he said, using the biblical term for the occupied West Bank.

"They will be part of the State of Israel."

Netanyahu announced ahead of September's general elections that he planned to annex the Jordan Valley, which accounts for around a third of the West Bank, if re-elected.

That election, the second this year, yielded no clear winner and efforts to form a government have so far failed.

His Sunday remarks, at a conference organised by right-wing newspaper Makor Rishon, came alongside an appeal to rival Benny Gantz to form a unity government and save the time and money involved in elections.

"I have offered to Benny Gantz to join a unity government and today too I'm telling him to join a unity government with me," Netanyahu said. "It's not too late."

Wednesday marks the last day for a member of parliament to propose a coalition before the country heads to another vote - the third in a year.

"I want American recognition of our sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, it's important," Netanyahu said, noting he recently discussed the issue with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, without presenting a formal plan.

The Israeli premier earlier this week said that Israel has the "full right" to annex the Jordan Valley, even as the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court warned the country against taking the bold step.

Pompeo last month announced that the US does not regard Israeli settlements as illegal, a move that has widely been condemned as contrary to international law. 

Earlier this month, Israel's far-right Defence Minister Naftali Bennett ordered officials to start planning a new Israeli settlement in the heart of the divided West Bank city of Hebron. Netanyahu also pledged to annex existing settlements in Hebron ahead of the September vote.

The US House of Representatives on Friday passed a resolution supporting a Palestinian state and determining that the US should "discourage" steps such as "unilateral annexation of territory".

Around 400,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank, alongside around 2.6 million Palestinians.

The Israeli premier has said in the past that the wider moves to annex or "legalise" settlements in the West Bank would be in coordination with US President Donald Trump and his long-awaited "Deal of the Century" peace plan.

Addressing the annual meeting of the Israeli-American Council on Saturday, Trump claimed that his son-in-law and advisor was the best man for the job.

"If Jared Kushner can’t do it, it can't be done," he said.

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