Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Saturday to “extend sovereignty” to settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins the upcoming general election. Asked in an interview on Israeli TV why he had not extended Israeli sovereignty to large settlements in the West Bank, he replied, “I will apply (Israeli) sovereignty, but I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements.”
Settlements built on land occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War are deemed illegal by the international community and their ongoing construction is seen as a major barrier to peace in the Middle East. Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said Netanyahu’s statement was “not surprising.”
“Israel will continue to brazenly violate international law for as long as the international community will continue to reward Israel with impunity, particularly with the Trump administration’s support,” he said on Twitter.
Netanyahu’s remark comes just three days before the April 9 general election and could be seen as an appeal to rightwing voters who don’t believe in the feasibility of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. In an interview broadcast Friday, Netanyahu said he told U.S. President Donald Trump he would not remove settlements or people as part of a future American peace plan.”I said there shouldn’t be the removal of even one settlement” from the occupied West Bank, Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel 13 television.
Washington is expected to unveil proposals for Israeli-Palestinian peace sometime after Tuesday’s Israeli election in which Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term. The Israeli prime minister was asked if he was familiar with the details of the U.S. plan, replying he knew “what should be in it.” Along with settlements, “our ongoing control of all the territory west of the Jordan” River was a further condition set by the Israeli premier for any U.S.-led peace initiative.
Netanyahu said he informed Trump not “even one person” would be evicted from a settlement. More than 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements as part of its military occupation of the territory, while a further 200,000 live in settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. (Cover image: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during an elections campaign press conference at his Jerusalem residence on April 1, 2019.)
(With input from agencies)