Netanyahu plans to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected

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Speaking days before the Israeli parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he is considering formally annexing certain Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Binyamin Netanyahu said he would not dismantle a single Jewish settlement and that Israel would retain control of land west of the Jordan river.

"Who says that we won't do it?" The news comes amid reports that Netanyahu thinks Trump will back him on settlement annexation if the Palestinians reject the much-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

"So we must ask, why has Netanyahu said this now?"

"I went - 'BING!' - it was done", Trump said on Saturday, describing the swiftness of his decision.

But Netanyahu, who has fought the election campaign under the shadow of corruption allegations, is also competing for votes with far-right parties who advocate annexation. His comments are likely to appeal to hard-line voters, who object to ceding lands to the Palestinians.

"Any measures and any announcements will not change the facts. Settlements are illegal and they will be removed".

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the West Bank, which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war, was Palestinian territory and Israel's occupation violated global law. Most older Jews remain supportive of Israel's current Middle East policies, as does the roughly 10% of the Jewish population that is Orthodox. The West Bank is under Israeli military jurisdiction, although settlers are subject to civilian law, as Israeli citizens.

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FILE - Men work on a new housing project in the West Bank settlement of Naale, Jan. 1, 2019.

Settlements, which Israel's B'Tselem rights group said cover about 10 percent of the West Bank, are one of the most heated issues in efforts to restart peace talks, frozen since 2014.

More than 600,000 Israelis now live on the war-won lands, the majority live in the West Bank. Israel disputes this, citing security needs and biblical, historical and political connections to the land.

The move, which would be a sharp departure from long-standing Israeli government policy, was promised on in a television interview Saturday (local time).

Asked by Channel 12 about annexing Israeli settlements in the West Bank, he said that "we're on the way" and that "the next term (in office) will be fateful".

"The US-Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships that we have on the planet, and that relationship, if it is successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist, as he warns against Arabs coming to the polls", O'Rourke said.

Palestinian negotiators have boycotted contact with the Trump administration since it, in another break with longtime policy, moved the USA embassy to Jerusalem and recognized the city as the country's capital, enraging Palestinians, who also consider the city their capital. Both moves delighted Israel, infuriated Palestinian and Arab leaders, and were opposed by most USA allies.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat tweeted, "Israel will continue to brazenly violate worldwide law as long as the global community will continue to reward Israel with impunity, particularly with the Trump Administration's support and endorsement of Israel's violation of the national and human rights of the Palestinian people".