Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday night he would annex West Bank settlements if he is re-elected Tuesday. During a TV interview on Channel 12 News’ Meet the Press, Netanyahu said he would extend Israeli sovereignty if he is elected to a fifth term. He didn’t mention how much of the territory, which is occupied by Palestinians, would be affected.
“A Palestinian state will endanger our existence and I withstood huge pressure over the past eight years, no prime minister has withstood such pressure,” he said. “We must control our destiny.”
His stance is backed by right-wing voters.
And 42 percent Israelis support West Bank annexation, including two-state backers, in a Haaretz poll.
Last month, Netanyahu was in the White House when President Donald Trump declared the United States would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
“Will we move ahead to the next stage?” he said in the interview. “Yes. I will extend sovereignty but I don’t distinguish between the settlement blocs and the isolated ones, because each settlement is Israeli and I will not hand it over to Palestinian sovereignty.”
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria and the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war.
“I will not divide Jerusalem, I will not evacuate any community and I will make sure we control the territory west of Jordan,” Netanyahu told the show’s host, Rina Matzliah.
He was asked what will happen to the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar. Netanyahu promised that “it will happen, I promised and it will happen at the soonest opportunity.”
Netanyahu has vowed to evacuate Palestinians from the area, an idea that has been condemned by other nations.
Netanyahu’ Likud party is trailing Blue & White by several seats in most polls, but he could rule in a coalition with other right-wing parties.
“Netanyahu’s talk of West Bank annexation needs to be taken with a big grain of salt,” Shalom Lipner, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who has served seven Israeli prime ministers, told reporters. “With only three days left in a brutal election campaign, he and his competitors are all searching desperately for an edge to put them over the top at the polls. The annexation card — popular among a large swath of Netanyahu’s supporters — is the ultimate Hail Mary pass.”
Negatively, Netanyahu is dealing with potential indictment on bribery and fraud charges.
Image: Israeli rime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks beside President Donald J. Trump during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on March 25. Trump earlier signed an order recognizing Golan Heights as Israeli territory.