Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Tuesday to annex all settlements in the occupied West Bank as he officially launched his election campaign, reported The Times of Israel.
The Likud leader made the remarks on the same day that his main rival Benny Gantz had promised to annex the Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank.
Speaking to supporters in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said his government would “immediately” extend Israeli sovereignty over all West Bank settlements “without exception”.
Netanyahu also attacked the Blue and White leader, suggesting that the former military chief’s commitment to annexing the Jordan Valley was an election campaign bluff.
Urging Gantz to back a potential vote coming before the Knesset in the coming weeks, spearheaded by transportation minister Bezalel Smotrich, to approve the annexation of the Jordan Valley, Netanyahu declared: “Benny Gantz, I expect an answer by the end of the day”.
The party leaders than exchanged tweets, with Gantz telling Netanyahu: “Try for once not to lie and here’s a tip — you can apply Israeli law in the Jordan Valley in a cabinet decision within two hours, without any Knesset discussion. Let’s see you”.
Netanyahu replied: “Benny Gantz, I am happy you have finally decided to support my initiative to apply Israeli law in the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea. I expect full support from you and Blue and White for this historic move. Very soon I will put you to that test”.
According to The Times of Israel, “Netanyahu is reportedly considering the move [to hold a vote] as a trap for Blue and White, since if it supports the measure the party will be seen as being dragged by the premier on major policy issues, and if it opposes it that would negate the effect of Tuesday’s annexation announcement”.
The report also noted, however, that a decision to annex the region “during a transitional government is likely to be opposed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who reportedly voiced reservations when the issue was raised ahead of the September elections”.