Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to annex all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, he said on Sunday, reiterating an election promise made five months ago, but again without any timeframe.
Settlements are one of the hottest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinians have expressed fears that Netanyahu might challenge international consensus and move forward with annexation with possible support from the US. President Donald Trump, this is a close ally.
“With God’s help we will extend Jewish sovereignty to all the settlements as part of the (biblical) land of Israel, as part of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a Sunday speech in the West Bank settlement of Elkana, where he attended the opening ceremony of the school year.
He didn’t say that when he planned to make a move like that.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, Palestinian President’s spokesperson Mahmoud Abbas, said the announcement by Netanyahu was a “continuation of attempts to create an unacceptable fait accompli that will not lead to any peace, security or stability”.
Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, made comparable promises in April prior to an Israeli general election. He failed to create a ruling parliamentary majority after the vote, and on Sept. 17 the nation will hold a new election.
His reaffirmation of the promise of annexation came in the midst of a campaign attempt to attract followers of far-right groups to Likud in the upcoming election, in which votes are cast for the parliamentary candidate list of a party.
In authority for the previous decade, but with looming corruption accusations, Netanyahu has warned that Likud needs to emerge with a crucial lead in the vote, or that the president of Israel might choose another candidate after the race to create a ruling coalition.
In three criminal investigations against him, Netanyahu rejected any wrongdoing. In opinion polls with the centrist Blue and White party led by former army chief Benny Gantz, Likud runs neck-and-neck.
With the release of a U.S. peace plan pending, Trump has already acknowledged Israel’s 1981 Golan Heights annexation, a territory taken from Syria in the Middle East conflict of 1967.
Palestinians are trying to create the West Bank part of a future state that would include the Gaza Strip and its capital is East Jerusalem. In 1967, Israel captured those regions and relocated Gaza’s soldiers and settlers in 2005.
“This is our land,” Netanyahu said in his speech in Elkana. “We will build another Elkana and another Elkana and another Elkana. We will not uproot anyone here.”
According to Israeli statistics, more than 400,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank among a Palestinian population placed by the Palestinian Statistics Bureau at approximately 2.9 million.
According to the United Nations, another 212,000 Israeli settlers are living in East Jerusalem.
Settlements are considered illegal by the Palestinians and many nations under the Geneva Conventions, which bar settling on territory caught in battle. This is disputed by Israel, citing security requirements and biblical, historical, and political land connections.