Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Saturday to annex Jewish settlements in Yehuda and Shomron if re-elected, a dramatic policy shift apparently aimed at rallying his nationalist base in the final stretch of the tight race.
Netanyahu has promoted Jewish settlement expansion in his four terms as prime minister, but until now refrained from presenting a detailed vision for the “West Bank”, seen by the Palestinians as the heartland of a future state.
An Israeli annexation of large parts of the West Bank is bound to snuff out any last flicker of hope for an Israeli-Palestinian deal on the terms of a Palestinian state on lands they think is theirs.
A so-called two-state solution has long been the preferred option of most of the international community. However, intermittent U.S. mediation between Israelis and Palestinians ran aground after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital early in his term. The Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as their capital, suspended contact with the U.S.
More recently, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The move was viewed in Israel as a political gift by Trump to Netanyahu who is being challenged by former military chief Benny Gantz.
The U.S. State Department declined to comment on Netanyahu’s statement.