Far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday, September 1, to extend “Jewish sovereignty” to all settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) — a move tantamount to annexation — seeking to shore up right-wing support some two weeks ahead of the September 17 Knesset elections. Speaking to elementary school students in the West Bank settlement of Elkana on the first day of the school year, Netanyahu was echoing a pledge he made days before the previous national vote in April. The premier said that no more settlements would be evacuated, as happened in 2005 when the entire Israeli civilian presence in the Gaza Strip was removed.
MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), leader of the Joint List, condemned Netanyahu’s statement, accusing him of backing a “war crime.” Referring to the three corruption cases pending against the prime minister, Odeh said “Netanyahu is a serial criminal: he steals from the public to give [money] to his tycoon friends, and he pushes the State of Israel to commit a war crime of annexation that will cause the death of countless Palestinians and Israelis… His legacy will be a trail of indictments and promises to settlers he did not manage to fulfill.”
Hadash MK Ofer Cassif elucidated that “Netanyahu did not talk about Israeli sovereignty over the settlements in the Occupied Territories, but about Jewish sovereignty.” Cassif, candidate number 7 for the Joint List added, “Make no mistake about his intentions. The prime minister has publicly declared that he is interested in apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”
Two weeks earlier, The Times of Israel news site in English reported that Netanyahu was seeking a public declaration from US President Donald Trump backing an Israeli move to extend sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the West Bank before the national vote on September 17. In an interview published by The New York Times in June, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman suggested that some degree of annexation of the occupied territories would be legitimate. “Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank,” he said.