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Israel: Netanyahu plays the annexation card on the elections eve

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Sunday a rapid annexation of the Jordan Valley and settlements in the occupied West Bank, trying to mobilize right-wing support on the eve of elections crucial to his political survival.

Mr. Netanyahu, charged with corruption in a series of cases and whose trial begins on March 17, made annexation of parts of the West Bank, the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, his priority in the event of victory.

“It will only be a matter of weeks, maximum two months I hope,” he said in an interview on public radio.

The legislative elections are the third in less than a year in Israel after two polls that failed to decide between Mr. Netanyahu, head of Likud (right), and his main rival, Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Kahol Lavan party ( “Blue-white”, colors of the Israeli flag).

According to the latest projections, the Likud and Bleu-blanc would obtain 33 seats each on the 120 of the Knesset, the Parliament, a score almost identical to the last elections.

And counting their allies – the right and religious parties for Mr. Netanyahu, the center-left for Mr. Gantz-, neither of the two big blocs would gather enough support to form a government, according to these polls.

While the undecided are few among the voters, MM. Netanyahu and Gantz are trying to mobilize their respective electoral base in the hope of winning a few more seats and thus obtain from President Reuven Rivlin the mandate to form the next government.

“I am not afraid of deserters and I suggest to Netanyahu and Likud to watch what is happening in their camp … Everything has an end, and tomorrow is the end of the Netanyahu era in power, “said Gantz.

– “A reality” –

The big unknown remains the participation rate, especially as a surprise was invited in this electoral contest: the new coronavirus. Or more precisely, the fear of this epidemic.

Seven cases have been confirmed so far in Israel, but authorities have warned of the spread of “fake news” on the Internet or by text message that could discourage voters from going to the polls.

Before the September 2019 legislative elections, Mr. Netanyahu had already promised the “immediate” annexation of the Jordan Valley, a strip of land accounting for 30% of the West Bank, in the event of a victory.

But in January, a key element changed: the unveiling of US President Donald Trump’s plan for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which provides for the annexation of the Jordan Valley and the Israeli settlements, measures contrary to international law and rejected altogether by Palestinians – from secular Fatah to Islamists from Hamas.

“It is a reality, everyone has understood that President Trump and I will do it,” Netanyahu said of the annexation of the valley.

The Israeli Prime Minister also confirmed that the “Israeli-American” committee in charge of establishing the precise cartography of the Palestinian lands that Israel wishes to annex, had started its work “last week”.

– “Change of leadership” –

More than 450,000 people live in settlements in the West Bank. The population of the colonies has jumped by almost 50% during the last decade marked by the uninterrupted presence of Benjamin Netanyahu in power, according to the authorities.

In the past two weeks, Netanyahu has multiplied announcements of housing projects in the settlements in the West Bank, but also in East Jerusalem, territory occupied and annexed by the Hebrew state.

The Trump project plans to make Jerusalem the “indivisible” capital of Israel, much to the dismay of Palestinians who want to make the eastern part of the city the capital of a future state.

The Palestinians are following the electoral campaign “with great interest”, said Jihad Harb, a Palestinian analyst.

“On the Palestinian side, there is a desire to see a change in the Israeli leadership that could revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” stalled for years,” he said.

Former chief of the army staff, Benny Gantz supports the American project and advocates the hard line against Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave of two million inhabitants.

But Mr. Netanyahu’s rival has also argued for dialogue with the Palestinians and his party has less support among supporters of colonization.

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