Middle East

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

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will begin annexing the West Bank shortly after next week's election, if he wins it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex the heart of the West Bank if he wins re-election next week, a move that could inflame the Middle East.

Arab leaders angrily condemned Mr Netanyahu's remarks, and a UN spokesman warned the step would be "devastating" to the prospects for a two-state solution.

Mr Netanyahu said he would extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley - an area seen as the breadbasket of any Palestinian state - shortly after forming a new government and would move later to annex other Jewish settlements.

Such action would swallow up most of the West Bank territory sought by the Palestinians, leaving them with little more than isolated enclaves.

Mr Netanyahu said it was important to act as US President Donald Trump prepares to unveil his Mideast peace plan after the September 17 election.

"This is a historic opportunity, a one-time opportunity, to extend Israeli sovereignty on our settlements in Judea and Samaria, and also on other important regions for our security, for our heritage, and for our future," Mr Netanyahu said on Tuesday, using the biblical terms for the West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu was not clear about the status of the Palestinians on the West Bank.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
AFP

Over 2.5 million Palestinians live there and in east Jerusalem, in addition to nearly 700,000 Jewish settlers.

Israel already has annexed east Jerusalem in a move that is not internationally recognised.

The proposal was dismissed as election theatrics by opponents, who have accused Mr Netanyahu of trying to divert attention from a corruption scandal and Israel's security challenges.

Later in the day he was whisked away from a campaign event in southern Israel after Palestinian militants fired rockets towards the area.

Mr Netanyahu's plan would hinge on a number of factors, most critically whether Trump would support him.

But major policy pronouncements are typically co-ordinated with the White House ahead of time, and a muted White House reaction indicated there would be little resistance.

US officials said Mr Netanyahu had told them about his proposal ahead of time and that they had not raised any objections because they do not think it will affect prospects for an eventual peace agreement.

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