Palestinians slam Netanyahu pledge to annex West Bank settlements

Palestinian officials denounce Israel PM's reiterated pledge to annex occupied West Bank settlements as 'unacceptable'.

    More than 400,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank which are illegal under international law [File: AP]
    More than 400,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank which are illegal under international law [File: AP]

    Palestinian officials have denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reiteration of a pledge to annex all illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, warning such a move would not lead to "any peace".

    Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Netanyahu's announcement on Sunday was a "continuation of attempts to create an unacceptable fait accompli".

    Rdainah added that any such move would "not lead to any peace, security or stability".

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    The settlements are illegal under international law and are major stumbling blocks to an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

    Palestinians seek to make the West Bank part of a future state that would include the Gaza Strip and occupied East Jerusalem as its capital.

    Israel seized those areas in 1967 and moved troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005.

    Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), called on the international community to take action after Netanyahu's comments.

    "Those who claim concern after every Israeli settlement announcement should face reality: Israel's PM is announcing further annexation of occupied territory," Erekat wrote on Twitter.

    "Enough impunity: There's an international responsibility to impose sanctions on Israel after decades of systematic crimes," he added.

    Israel election looms

     

    Netanyahu's reaffirmation of the annexation promise came amid a campaign push to draw supporters of far-right factions to his Likud party in the run-up to Israel's September 17 election.

    "With the help of God we will apply Jewish sovereignty to all communities, as part of the [biblical] Land of Israel, and as part of the state of Israel," he told an audience at the West Bank settlement of Elkana on Sunday.

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    In power for the past decade, but with corruption charges looming, Netanyahu has cautioned that Likud needs to emerge with a decisive lead in the ballot or Israel's president might choose another candidate to form a governing coalition after the race.

    Netanyahu made the same promise on annexation before Israel's last election in April, but the results left him unable to form a viable governing coalition and prompted the calling of a fresh poll.

    More than 400,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank, while a further 200,000 live in settlements in occupied East Jerusalem over which Israel has already unilaterally imposed full sovereignty. The settlers are a major plank of support for Netanyahu's government.

    US President Donald Trump's administration has swung White House policy firmly in favour of Israel.

    In June, the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, said Israel had the right to annex at least part of the West Bank.

    With the publication of the anticipated US peace plan still pending, Trump has already recognised Israel's 1981 annexation of the occupied Golan Heights - the land captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

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    SOURCE: News agencies