Netanyahu says Israel will annex Jordan Valley if he wins reelection
The prime minister says it would be a 'historic move' if Israel was to apply its sovereignty over the disputed territory in the West Bank; adds other Israeli settlements will follow if his Likud party would emerge victorious after September 17 elections
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday Israel will establish its sovereignty over the Jordan Valley if his party would win next week's elections, effectively triggering the disputed territory's annexation.
Speaking at a special press conference broadcast live on Israeli TV channels just a week before the September 17 elections, Netanyahu called the move a "historic opportunity" to extend Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.
"Today, I announce my intention, after the establishment of a new government, to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea," Netanyahu said.
"This is a historic opportunity, a one-time opportunity, to extend Israeli sovereignty on our settlements in Judea and Samaria, and also on other important regions for our security, for our heritage, and for our future," Netanyahu said, using the biblical terms for the West Bank.
The prime minister said other Israeli settlements in the West Bank will follow, but after the publication of the long-delayed U.S. President Donald Trump's peace plan.
"Out of respect for President Trump and great faith in our friendship, I will await applying sovereignty until release of the president's political plan," he said.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, in a statement issued shortly before Netanyahu spoke, amid reports of a possible annexation announcement, said that the Israeli leader is "a prime destroyer of the peace process".
Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, meanwhile, said Netanyahu's annexation plan is "manifestly illegal."
"Israel's unprecedented culture of impunity, enabled by international inaction, is the only explanation for Mr. Netanyahu's audacity in using annexation as an election ploy," he said, calling on the international community to block the Israeli leader's plan.
The Jordan Valley, which Palestinians seek for the eastern perimeter of a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, stretches from the Dead Sea in the south to the Israeli city of Beit Shean in the north. Israel captured the West Bank in a 1967 war.
The 2,400 square kilometre (926.65 square mile) valley accounts for nearly 30 percent of the territory in the West Bank. Israel has long said it intends to maintain military control there under any peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Reuters contributed to this report