Netanyahu Annexation Pledge a Blow to Palestinians

Palestinians surround a bulldozer to try to stop demolition in the hamlet of Khan al-Ahmar, on the West Bank. (AP file photo/Majdi Mohammed)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the heart of the West Bank if he wins re-election next week could inflame the Middle East and extinguish any remaining Palestinian hope of establishing a separate state.

Arab leaders angrily condemned Netanyahu’s remarks Tuesday, and a U.N. spokesman warned the step would be “devastating” to the prospects for a two-state solution.

Netanyahu said he would extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley — the breadbasket of any Palestinian state — shortly after forming a new government and would move later to annex other Jewish settlements.

Such action would swallow up most of the West Bank territory sought by the Palestinians, leaving them with little more than isolated enclaves. Netanyahu’s announcement appeared to be aimed at shoring up support of hard-line nationalist voters.

World leaders denounced Netanyahu’s annexation promise.

Stephane Dujarric, a United Nations spokesman, said Tuesday that any Israeli move to impose its administration over the Palestinian territory “would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations, regional peace and the very essence of a two-state solution.”

The Arab League condemned Netanyahu’s remarks as “a serious development and an Israeli aggression” that, if carried out, amount to “an Israeli declaration for the end of the peace process.”

Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said in a statement that annexation of Israel’s West Bank settlements would fan the flames of conflict around the region

Netanyahu made no mention of what he would do with the territory’s more than 2 million Palestinian residents.

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