Netanyahu issues controversial pledge

JERUSALEM: 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.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points at a map of the Jordan Valley as he gives a statement in Ramat Gan, near the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

“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 northern Dead Sea.”

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said Netanyahu was “not only destroying the two-state solution, he is destroying all chances of peace”. She called it “worse than apartheid”. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the annexation would be “manifestly illegal” and called on the international community to act. – AFP