Netanyahu repeats pledge to annex Israeli settlements in occupied West Bank
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he intends to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, but again gave no timeframe in repeating an election promise he made five months ago.
Settlements are one of the most heated issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinians have voiced fears Netanyahu could defy international consensus and move ahead with annexation with possible backing from US President Donald Trump, a close ally.
“With God’s help we will extend Jewish sovereignty to all the settlements as part of the Land of Israel, as part of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a speech in the West Bank settlement of Elkana, where he attended a ceremony opening the school year.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Netanyahu’s announcement was a “continuation of attempts to create an unacceptable fait accompli that will not lead to any peace, security, or stability.”
Netanyahu had pledged in July not to dismantle even the remotest Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The Israeli elections will be held on September 17. If Netanyahu is successful in the elections, he will try to form a coalition again.
Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Israeli settlements are viewed as illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace since they are located on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
The settlers are a major plank of support for Netanyahu’s right-wing government and his bid for re-election.
More than 400,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank, according to Israeli figures, among a Palestinian population put at about 2.9 million by the Palestinian Statistics Bureau.
A further 212,000 Israeli settlers live in East Jerusalem, according to the United Nations.