Thu, Sep 12, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Netanyahu vows to annex 60% of West Bank territory

‘MADNESS’:The Israeli prime minister’s annexation plan would bury any chance of peace between Palestinians and Israelis, a Palestine Liberation Organization official said


Palestinians fill bottles with water from a tank outside their dwelling in the Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Aug. 21.

Photo: Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would annex West Bank territory if re-elected next week, in a brazen ploy to gain right-wing votes ahead of a neck-and-neck vote.

US President Donald Trump’s administration is to unveil its plan for Middle East peace talks after Israel’s election on Tuesday next week, and that presents Israel with “a historic, one-time chance to extend Israeli sovereignty over our settlements in Judea and Samaria, and also to other areas important to our security, our heritage and our future,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday. “I ask you to give me a clear mandate to extend Israeli sovereignty over all the settlements.”

More than 400,000 Israelis live in more than 120 settlements, which together with roads and other support systems account for about 60 percent of the West Bank.

Annexation would deal a body blow to the Palestinians’ dreams of establishing a state with the West Bank as its heartland.

Those dreams have steadily eroded since December 2017, when the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, over the objections of the Palestinians, who claim the city’s eastern sector for a future capital.

A senior Palestinian official called Netanyahu’s plan “madness.”

“If Prime Minister Netanyahu is allowed to implement his plans of annexation, he would have succeeded in burying even any chance of peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat. “The international community must stop such madness. We need to end the conflict and not to keep it for another 100 years.”

Annexation of West Bank territory, captured in the 1967 Middle East war, had been considered taboo for decades in Israeli politics because of the international outcry it would spark, but as religious and nationalist political parties gained clout, and peacemaking with the Palestinians drifted off the country’s agenda amid continuing Palestinian attacks, the notion has come to resonate with large swaths of the Israeli public.

According to a poll last month by the Israel Democracy Institute, 48 percent of Jewish Israelis and 11 percent of Arab Israelis would favor such a plan if it were supported by Trump and his administration, compared with 28 percent of Jewish Israelis and 56 percent of Arab Israelis who oppose the idea.

Netanyahu said the first area to be annexed if he is re-elected would be the Jordan Valley, where Israeli forces guard the country’s eastern flank with Jordan.

Endorsing a proposal that has become the battle cry of other hawkish politicians might burnish his nationalist credentials.

“It mostly, I think, is a way to get votes from the right,” said Amichai Cohen, dean of the law faculty at Israel’s Ono Academic College.

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