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Israel to annex the West Bank, claims settlers' leader

The leader of Israel's illegal Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank has revealed the existence of a bill in the Knesset which proposes the annexation of the settlements across the territory, Maariv reported on Sunday.

According to Shelah Edler – a member of Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party – he has pledges from ministers and MKs, as well as the leaders of the Jewish Home Party, to approve the annexation of the West Bank. He said that this bill would be a priority for the right-wing parties in the Israeli parliament.

Maariv said that Edler's proposal was hailed by Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Rabbi Eli Bin Dahan, a senior figure in Jewish Home. "Annexing Judea and Samaria [the settlers' name for the West Bank] is the issue of this time," said Bin Dahan during a celebration in occupied Hebron on Thursday. "The regional and international conditions are the most appropriate for it."

Senior officials, claimed Maariv, including Education Minister Naftali Bennet, suggest a gradual annexation of the West Bank, starting with Area C, which covers 60 per cent of the occupied territory's land. "Area C includes 400,000 Jews and 70,000 Arabs," Bennet said. "We will give the choice for the Arabs either to choose Israeli citizenship or the right to remain [under Israeli control]."

The Israeli newspaper said that the settlement council formed a lobby in the Knesset aiming to get the law approved for the annexation of the West Bank as soon as possible. It added that the settlers are ready to accept the gradual annexation on condition of starting with Ma'ale Adumim, a massive settlement bloc surrounding Jerusalem.

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