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article imageNetanyahu renews pledge to annex West Bank settlements

By Stephen Weizman (AFP)     Sep 1, 2019 in World

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday renewed his pledge to annex all Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as he sought to shore up right-wing support ahead of a September 17 election.

Netanyahu and his Likud party have been working to maximise turnout and wrest votes from other right-wing parties close to the influential settlement movement.

"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.

He made the same promise ahead of the last election in April, but the results left him unable to form a viable governing coalition and he opted for a fresh poll for September 17.

Israel occupied the West Bank in the Six-Day War of 1967.

Israeli settlements are viewed as illegal under international law and as major obstacles to peace since they lie on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Annexation on a large-scale could prove to be the death knell for their statehood ambitions.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, 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," he wrote on Twitter.

Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are viewed as illegal under international law and as...
Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are viewed as illegal under international law and as major obstacles to peace but under Benjamin Netanyahu's leadership construction has forged ahead
AHMAD GHARABLI, AFP/File

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

The settlers are a major plank of support for Netanyahu's government, viewed as the most right-wing in Israel's history.

More than 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, while a further 200,000 live in settlements in occupied east Jerusalem over which Israel has already unilaterally imposed full sovereignty.

- Netanyahu boycott call -

Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when a drive for a deal by Barack Obama's administration collapsed.

President Donald Trump's administration has swung White House policy firmly in favour of Israel, and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman said in June that Israel had the right to annex at least part of the West Bank.

With the election nearing, Netanyahu has again turned to populism to energise supporters.

At the weekend, he drew outrage from journalists and free press advocates when he took a fresh swipe at the Israeli media, which he regularly seeks to portray as being part of a leftist campaign against him and his family.

He is facing potential corruption charges in the months ahead on allegations of fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

Netanyahu, the longest-serving premier in Israeli history, denies all accusations and has labelled them bids by his enemies to force him from office.

On Friday, Netanyahu called on the public to boycott privately-owned Keshet 12 television channel, which has had blow-by-blow coverage of the investigations, including what it says are transcripts of witness statements to the police.

"My recommendation is clear," he said. "Do not watch Keshet or its programmes."

He justified his call by citing the series "Our Boys" co-produced by a branch of Keshet.

The series is based on the 2014 kidnap and killing by Palestinians of three Israeli teenagers and the subsequent revenge murder by Jews of 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir.

The mother of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir who was snatched in east Jerusalem and burned...
The mother of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir who was snatched in east Jerusalem and burned alive takes part in a protest outside a court on May 3, 2016 after a life sentence was handed down to the ringleader of a Jewish gang who killed him
AHMAD GHARABLI, AFP/File

The teen was snatched in east Jerusalem and burned alive.

Three Jews were convicted for the crime; two received life sentences and the third was jailed for 21 years.

Netanyahu alleged that the "anti-Semitic series", co-produced with US channel HBO, focused on the Abu Khdeir killing while paying scant attention to the case of the three Israelis.

In comments Saturday, Netanyahu accused Keshet of "blackening Israel, horrific propaganda".

He said that its legal affairs correspondent was being manipulated by senior staff who were engaged in a campaign against him.

"They talk about a free press while mobilising in a terror strike against Israeli democracy," he said.

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