Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has doubled down on his pledge to annex the Jordan Valley and all the settlements in the West Bank as the Israeli elections draw near.
In a speech launching his right-wing Likud party’s election campaign in Jerusalem al-Quds on Tuesday, Netanyahu vowed to “apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the Northern Dead Sea … without delay and without any veto of [senior Arab-majority Joint List lawmaker] Ahmad Tibi.”
Ahmad Tibi is an Arab member of the Knesset criticized by Israeli politicians for his anti-Zionist positions as well as his close relations with Palestinian parties.
“Not only will we not uproot anyone, we will apply Israeli law to all Israeli settlements without exception,” Netanyahu added.
The remarks came hours after Netanyahu’s main rival, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, said he would work to advance the annexation of the Jordan Valley “in coordination with the international community” if he wins the March 2 general elections.
Netanyahu urged Gantz not to wait until after the elections, but rather support the measure if it is brought before the Israeli parliament (Knesset) for a vote.
“Why wait until after the elections if it is possible to apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley already with broad agreement in the Knesset? Benny Gantz, I expect your answer this evening, unless Ahmad Tibi vetoed you,” the Israeli premier said.
Gantz retorted by tweeting, “First we’ll discuss immunity and then we’ll manage applying sovereignty,” referring to Netanyahu’s request from the Knesset to be exempt from prosecution in the three corruption cases he is charged with.
In September 2019, right before the last elections, Netanyahu vowed that if re-elected, he planned to annex additional “vital” parts of the West Bank beyond the Jordan Valley and the major settlement blocs, and do so in coordination with the United States.
The cabinet agreed to turn the wildcat settlement of Mevoot Yericho in the Jordan Valley into an official settlement.
Shortly later, however, the Israeli prime minister said that he had been told by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that a transition government could not make such a move so close to an election.
The Jordan Valley is a fertile strip of land that accounts for roughly one quarter of the West Bank. Approximately 70,000 Palestinians and some 9,500 Israeli settlers currently live in the Jordan Valley.
Palestine urges action on Israeli land theft
The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement that the calls to annex areas of the West Bank would “undermine the foundations of the peace process” and regional stability.
Additionally Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour told a UN Security Council meeting that “neither threats nor attempts at annexation should go unchallenged.”
“The urgency of stopping Israeli annexation schemes cannot be underestimated; immediate action is needed before it is too late,” he said, noting that the UN Charter’s prohibition on acquiring territory by force must be upheld along with Security Council resolutions reaffirming the illegality of Israeli settlements.
Moreover, UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo reiterated that “all settlements are illegal under international law and remain an obstacle to peace” and warned against any annexation bid.
“The annexation of some or all of Area C, if implemented, would deal a devastating blow to the potential of reviving negotiations, advancing regional peace, and the essence of the two-state solution,” she warned.