Netanyahu vows to annex West Bank's Jordan Valley if re-elected

International

Desk report

Published: 11 Sep 2019, 03:40 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a deeply controversial pledge on Tuesday to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank if re-elected in September 17 polls.

Palestinians immediately reacted by saying Netanyahu was destroying any hopes for peace, while his electoral opponents accused him of a cynical play for right-wing nationalist votes with polls only a week away.

In his televised speech, the prime minister also reiterated his intention to annex Israeli settlements in the wider West Bank if re-elected.

But he said he would do that in coordination with US President Donald Trump, whose long-awaited peace plan is expected to be unveiled sometime after the vote.

Those moves could effectively kill any remaining hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, long the focus of international diplomacy.

"There is one place where we can apply Israeli sovereignty immediately after the elections," Netanyahu said during the address that included a map of the Jordan Valley on an easel next to him.

"If I receive from you, citizens of Israel, a clear mandate to do so ... today I announce my intention to apply with the formation of the next government Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea."

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said Netanyahu was "not only destroying the two-state solution, but also destroying all chances of peace".

She called it "worse than apartheid".

- 'Great opportunity' -

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the annexation would be "manifestly illegal" and called on the international community to act.

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned the move would "push the whole region towards violence" and risks "killing off the entire peace process".

In Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu slammed Netanyahu's pledge as "racist".

"The election promise of Netanyahu, who is giving all kind of illegal, unlawful and aggressive messages before the election, is a racist apartheid state," Cavusoglu wrote on his official Twitter account in both English and Turkish.

Saudi Arabia condemned it as a "dangerous escalation against the Palestinian people" and called for an emergency meeting of foreign ministers from the 57 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the official Saudi Press Agency said, citing the royal court.


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