Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

Benjamin Netanyahu vows to annex all West Bank settlements

The Israeli prime minister said it would include a settlement deep in the heart of Hebron

Palestinian activists from Youth Against Settlements set up a Palestinian flag overlooking the Israeli settlement of Tel Rumeida, the Ibrahimi Mosque (C), or the Tomb of the Patriarch, and the old city of the West Bank town of Hebron on September 4, 2019. AFP
Palestinian activists from Youth Against Settlements set up a Palestinian flag overlooking the Israeli settlement of Tel Rumeida, the Ibrahimi Mosque (C), or the Tomb of the Patriarch, and the old city of the West Bank town of Hebron on September 4, 2019. AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, including one deep in the heart of the largest Palestinian city in the area, if he is re-elected in tomorrow's do-over election.

When asked by Israeli Army Radio on Monday if his annexation pledge included an enclave of several hundred settlers who live in volatile Hebron, he said: "Of course."

Hebron is under an Israeli military occupation, and the army has set up a network of checkpoints and restrictions that prevent the free movement of Palestinians. It has allowed settlers to establish outposts and secure properties in the city under its protection. More than 200,000 Palestinians live in the city, while around 700 Jewish settlers live side-by-side with them, protected by several thousand Israeli soldiers.

The city has been the site of some of the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence. An Israeli soldier in 2016 was shown executing a Palestinian attacker who was laying prone and weaponless on the floor in Hebron, and many Palestinian stabbing attacks have taken place in the city. The city is also the site of one of the worst massacres in Palestinian history. In 1994, a Jewish settler entered the city's Ibrahimi Mosque, shooting dead 29 people.

Mr Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival in the vote. He has doled out hard-line promises weeks before the election, trying to shore up support from nationalist voters. He's also promised to annex the Jordan Valley, an area seen as the breadbasket of any Palestinian state. It makes up around a quarter of the occupied West Bank.

Critics say his pledges would eliminate any remaining Palestinian hope of establishing a separate state.

On Sunday, he held his last Cabinet meeting before the vote in an illegal outpost in the Jordan Valley. At that meeting, the Cabinet approved the legalisation of the outpost known as Mevo'ot Yericho.

The illegal outpost, built in 1999, is home to about 30 families.

All settlements are illegal under international law, but Israel distinguishes between those it has approved and those it has not.

Israeli settlers regularly set up caravan homes at sites in the West Bank with the hope of eventually gaining government approval as a settlement, which has repeatedly happened.

Updated: September 16, 2019 01:21 PM

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