Netanyahu vows to begin annexing West Bank settlements

A Palestinian shepherd walks with his herd of sheep in the Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Wednesday

Abbas made his statement in response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement that he will extend Israeli sovereignty to the two West Bank areas if he's re-elected in the upcoming election.

Benjamin Netanyahu has announced he would annex a large swathe of the occupied West Bank into Israel if he wins next week's election, a move that could shatter any lingering hopes of creating a future Palestinian state.

Journalists run for cover from tear gas canisters fired by Israeli forces during a demonstration near the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the occupied West Bank on September 9, 2019, following the reported death of Bassam al-Sayeh in an Israeli prison. Ehud Barak, a former prime minister who is campaigning to oust Netanyahu, said the prime minister "has no public or moral mandate to determine things so fateful to the state of Israel".

Netanyahu said his annexation plans would not include Palestinian cities, such as the Jordan Valley's Jericho, though it would be encircled by Israeli territory.

"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, referring to a long-awaited blueprint from Washington for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Critics have interpreted the vow as an election ploy to pull more right-wing voters from Netanyahu's rivals.

Palestinian officials were outraged by the Israeli Prime Minister's speech.

Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political life in a closely contested election, reaffirmed the pledge to annex all Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank - but said such a move would not be made before publication of a long-awaited United States peace plan and consultations with President Donald Trump.

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Next week's elections in Israel come just five months after the last time at the polls where Netanyahu's right wing won the majority of seats but failed to come to an agreement and join into one governing coalition.

In an interview with the New York Times in June, U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that "under certain circumstances" Israel has the "right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank".

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014 and Palestinians have called Trump's proposal dead in the water, even before its publication, citing what they see as his pro-Israel policies.

"We haven't had such an opportunity since the Six Day War and I doubt we will have another opportunity in the next 50 years".

The 2,400 square kilometre valley accounts for almost 30% of the territory in the West Bank.

"Israel's unprecedented culture of impunity, enabled by worldwide inaction, is the only explanation for Mr. Netanyahu's audacity in using annexation as an election ploy", he said, calling on the global community to block the Israeli leader's plan.

Netanyahu says Israel must lay out its vision as President Donald Trump prepares to unveil his Mideast peace plan. Unlike East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, Israel never extended its sovereignty to the West Bank.

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