Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, he said Sunday, reiterating an electoral promise made five months ago, but once again without giving time.
Settlements are one of the hottest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians have expressed their fear that Netanyahu can defy international consensus and move forward with annexation with the possible support of US President Donald Trump, a close ally.
"With God's help, we will extend Jewish sovereignty to all settlements as part of the (biblical) Land of Israel, as part of the State of Israel," Netanyahu said in Sunday's speech at the Elkana settlement in the West Bank, where He attended an opening ceremony of the school year.
He didn't say when he planned to make that move.
Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, made a similar promise days before an Israeli general election in April. After the vote, he failed to form a ruling parliamentary majority and the country will hold a new election on September 17.
With the publication of a US peace plan still pending, Trump has already recognized the 1981 Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, a territory that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.
The Palestinians seek to make the West Bank part of a future state that includes the Gaza Strip and has East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel captured those areas in 1967 and removed troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005.
After decades of settlement construction, more than 400,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank, according to Israeli figures, among a Palestinian population estimated at around 2.9 million by the Palestine Statistical Office.
Another 212,000 Israeli settlers live in East Jerusalem, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
"This is our land," Netanyahu said in his speech in Elkana. “We will build another Elkana and another Elkana and another Elkana. We are not going to uproot anyone here, ”said Netanyahu.
Palestinians and many countries believe that settlements are illegal under the Geneva conventions that prohibit settlement on land captured in war. Israel denies it, citing security needs and biblical, historical and political connections with the land.
Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians collapsed in 2014.
The Trump administration says it intends to launch its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan after the Israeli elections and has not revealed whether it will advocate a two-state solution that has been the basis of past negotiations.