Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu vows to annex West Bank’s Jordan Valley if re-elected


Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention on Tuesday to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank if he wins next week’s general election.

“Today, I announce my intention, after the establishment of a new government, to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea,” Netanyahu said in a speech broadcast live on Israeli TV channels.

Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political life in a closely-contested election, reaffirmed a pledge to annex all Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank, but said such a move would not be made before publication of a long-awaited U.S. peace plan and consultations with President Donald Trump. There was no immediate comment from Washington.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, in a statement issued shortly before Netanyahu spoke, amid reports of a possible annexation announcement, said that the Israeli leader is “a prime destroyer of the peace process”.

A senior Palestinian official said Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley if re-elected destroyed all chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace. “He is not only destroying the two-state solution, he is destroying all chances of peace,” senior official Hanan Ashrawi told AFP. “This is a total game changer.”

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Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the annexation would be “manifestly illegal”. He called on the international community to “act now to prevent Netanyahu and his allies from burying any remaining prospects for peace”.

The Jordan Valley, which Palestinians seek for the eastern perimeter of a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, stretches from the Dead Sea in the south to the Israeli city of Beit Shean in the north. Israel captured the West Bank in a 1967 war.

The 2,400 square kilometre (926.65 square mile) valley accounts for nearly 30 percent of the territory in the West Bank. Israel has long said it intends to maintain military control there under any peace agreement with the Palestinians.