Sept. 11 (UPI) — Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that he will annex Jordan Valley if he wins re-election next week.
Netanyahu told reporters at a press conference he would extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea if re-elected and able to form a coalition.
The United States peace plan for the Middle East under President Donald Trump will be presented days after Israel’s Sept. 17 election, which Netanyahu said would give him a “historic opportunity” to extend Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.
The proposed move to rally turnout of his right-wing base ahead of the election would weaken Palestinian efforts to establish a viable state in the West Bank.
A U.S. official told CNN the administration does not believe Netanyahu’s announcement will hinder a future peace settlement.
Pledges were made in the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords to negotiate a possible withdrawal of Israeli forces in settlements of the West Bank to facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In reaction to Netanyahu’s announcement, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called him a “prime destroyer of the peace process.”
Similarly, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi called it a “dangerous escalation,” which undermines the peace process.
However, Regavism, a pro-settlement advocacy group, supported Netanyahu’s annexation pledge.
“More than five decades after the return of the Jewish people to Judea and Samaria, we congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu for taking a historic step toward the sovereignty of the State of Israel and the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland,” the group said.
Netanyahu made a similar pledge prior to inconclusive elections in April that left him one seat short of a governing majority, but some view his pledges skeptically.
“When Netanyahu goes out to say, I am for annexation, do I believe him? No,” said Oded Revivi, mayor of the major Israeli settlement of Efrat. “The issue of annexation is far more complicated than can be resolved in an election campaign. It raises questions that even people who want to force annexation don’t have answers to.”