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If Reelected, Israel's Prime Minister Promises To Annex Part Of West Bank


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will annex a large strip of the occupied West Bank if he is reelected. This dramatic campaign pledge comes just one week before Israelis go to the polls and as the region waits for President Trump to unveil his peace plan. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Netanyahu made this televised announcement.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: (Through interpreter) Today I announce my intention upon forming the next government to impose Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley and the Northern Dead Sea.

ESTRIN: Those areas border Jordan and make up about 30% of the West Bank. Netanyahu says his promised annexation would include Israeli settlements there but not areas where Palestinians live and would give Israel a permanent, secure border on its eastern flank. This would be a dramatic move. Israel has occupied the West Bank for more than 50 years, but Palestinians want it for an independent state. And most countries say the future of the land should be resolved in peace talks. For now, this is a campaign pledge, similar to one he made in the spring to annex other Jewish settlements. It could be an attempt to appeal to right-wing voters. Now, he says, President Trump is about to unveil his Israeli Palestinian peace plan.


NETANYAHU: (Speaking Hebrew).

ESTRIN: Netanyahu says Israelis should vote for him because his close ties with Trump will ensure Israel will be able to keep its settlements during peace negotiations. Jordan's foreign minister condemned Netanyahu's declaration. Palestinian officials say annexation would bury chances for a two-state solution to the conflict. And Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said it would prompt him to call off existing peace agreements with Israel. The Trump administration did not welcome Netanyahu's pledge but did not object either. An official said the U.S. will release its peace proposal after the Israeli election.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUZANNE KRAFT'S "FLATIRON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.