Netanyahu annexation bid ‘destroys chances of peace’: Palestinian official

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A senior Palestinian official said on Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley if re-elected destroyed all chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“He is not only destroying the two-state solution, he is destroying all chances of peace,” senior official Hanan Ashrawi told AFP.

“This is a total game changer.”

Earlier Tuesday Netanyahu said he would immediately annex the area, a strategically important part of the occupied West Bank, if he were re-elected on September 17.

He also reiterated his intention to annex Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank if re-elected, saying it would be done in coordination with US President Donald Trump.

Ashrawi said the move, which would leave the Palestinian government with self-rule over a number of cities in the West Bank, was “worse than apartheid.”

“He is trying to take the land without the people and saying you are free to leave.”

Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas accused Netanyahu of seeking “right-wing votes by selling the illusion to his public that he can occupy Palestinian land forever.”

“In every (Israeli) election we pay the price, with our rights, with our lands.”

Israel occupied the West Bank in a 1967 war in a move never recognized by the international community.

More than 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law. Around 2.7 million Palestinians live in the territory.

Arab foreign ministers condemned Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, the head of the Arab League said on Tuesday.

Netanyahu’s plan will undermine any chances of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters after a one-day meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo.

The Jordanian foreign minister warned that Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank if re-elected would drag the whole region into violence.

“Netanyahu’s intention to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea” would “push the whole region toward violence,” Ayman Safadi said, condemning the election pledge.

Safadi, in a statement issued by his ministry, said the “unilateral measures he (Netanyahu) proposes risk killing off the entire peace process and pose a threat to peace and security in the region.”

Jordan, which is custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, has a 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

Meanwhile, US policy toward Israel and the Palestinian territories remains unchanged, a US official said on Tuesday.

“There is no change in United States policy at this time,” a Trump administration official said when asked whether the White House supported Netanyahu’s move.

“We will release our Vision for Peace after the Israeli election and work to determine the best path forward to bring long sought security, opportunity and stability to the region.”

The United Nations also warned on Tuesday that Netanyahu plan to annex the Jordan Valley would have no “international legal effect.”

“The secretary-general’s position has always been clear: unilateral actions are not helpful in the peace process,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“Any Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdictions and administration in the occupied West Bank is without any international legal effect,” the spokesman added.

“Such a prospect would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations, regional peace, and the very essence of a two-state solution.”

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