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6 Apr, 2019 17:27

Israel could annex parts of West Bank in coming years – Netanyahu

Israel could annex parts of West Bank in coming years – Netanyahu

Speaking days before the Israeli parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he is considering formally annexing certain Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

In an interview with Israel's Channel 12 News, Netanyahu promised to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if elected for another term next week. “You are asking whether we are moving on to the next stage – the answer is yes, we will move to the next stage. I am going to extend [Israel’s] sovereignty,” he said.

He went on to say that “each settlement is Israeli and [he] will not hand it over to Palestinian sovereignty.” The prime minister also told journalists that he would not “divide Jerusalem” and would “make sure we control the territory west of Jordan.”

The right-wing politician also argued against a two-state solution by saying that a Palestinian state would “endanger our existence.”

Earlier, Netanyahu said he’s made it clear to US President Donald Trump that he was not ready to evacuate “a single person” from the West Bank settlements. “All the settlements, without exception, those that are in blocs and those that aren’t, need to remain under Israeli sovereignty,” the PM said, during an interview recorded on Wednesday.

He also told Trump that any US reconciliation plan for Israel and Palestine must not include the removal of the settlements from the occupied Palestinian lands. “As far as I am concerned, [the evacuation] won’t be [in] there and, if it is, it won’t [happen],” Netanyahu said, adding that Tel Aviv insists on continued control over territories west of the Jordan River (the West Bank).

Asked about the hoped-for US recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the West Bank, Netanyahu told Channel 13 News to “wait until the next term.” At the same time, he praised Trump as “the best friend Israel has had.”

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Netanyahu stepped up his rhetoric ahead of the Israeli parliamentary elections scheduled for Tuesday, April 9. His Likud party faces tough competition from the newly formed Kahol Lavan, or Blue and White, party led by former Israeli Defense Forces chief, Benny Gantz, who threatens to end Netanyahu’s decade-long tenure.

Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that are also home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians. The Palestinian authorities did not immediately comment on Netanyahu’s promise. So far, the issue of the settlements has been one of the hottest topics preventing the two sides from restarting peace talks, which were frozen in 2014.

Most world nations consider the West Bank, as well as other territories seized by Israel following the 1967 war, occupied. However, the Trump administration has repeatedly challenged this, when it first recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved its embassy there. Trump then recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, to the outcry of Syria, the Arab world, and much of the UN.

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