Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday issued a deeply controversial promise to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected in the September 17 polls.
The Palestinians reacted immediately by saying that Netanyahu was destroying any hope of peace, while his electoral opponents accused him of a cynical move by right-wing nationalist votes with polls only a week away.
In his televised speech, the prime minister also reiterated his intention to annex the Israeli settlements in the West Bank if he was re-elected.
But he said he would do it in coordination with the president of the United States, Donald Trump, whose expected peace plan will be announced sometime after the vote.
These movements could put an end to the hopes of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which for a long time was the focus of international diplomacy.
"There is a place where we can apply Israeli sovereignty immediately after the elections," Netanyahu said during the speech that included a map of the Jordan Valley on an easel next to him.
"If I receive from you, citizens of Israel, a clear mandate to do so […] today I announce my intention to apply with the formation of the next Israeli sovereignty of the government over the Jordan Valley and the north of the Dead Sea. "
Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said that Netanyahu "was not only destroying the two-state solution, but was destroying all possibilities of peace."
She called it "worse than apartheid."
& # 39; Great opportunity & # 39;
Saeb Erekat, the main Palestinian negotiator, said the annexation would be "manifestly illegal" and asked the international community to act.
Jordan's Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, warned that the measure "would push the entire region towards violence" and runs the risk of "killing the entire peace process."
In Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticized Netanyahu's promise of "racist."
"The electoral promise of Netanyahu, which is giving all kinds of illegal, illegal and aggressive messages before the elections, is a racist state of apartheid," Cavusoglu wrote in his official Twitter account in English and Turkish.
Saudi Arabia condemned it as a "dangerous escalation against the Palestinian people" and convened an emergency meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers of the 57 member states of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (ICO), the official Saudi press agency he said, citing the royal court.
The Jordan Valley represents about a third of the West Bank and Israeli right-wing politicians have long seen the strategic area as a part of the territory from which they would never withdraw, seeing it as the eastern border of the country.
Israeli settlements are located in what is known as Area C of the West Bank, which accounts for about 60 percent of the territory, including the vast majority of the Jordan Valley.
Netanyahu said his annexation plans would not include Palestinian cities, such as the Jericho of the Jordan Valley, although it would be surrounded by Israeli territory.
The prime minister said Trump's peace parameters "will present us with a great challenge and also a great opportunity."
"This is a historic and unique opportunity to apply Israeli sovereignty in our settlements […] and other places of importance for our security, our heritage and our future. "
Trump has thrown the support of the United States overwhelmingly in favor of Israel since taking office, even recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians.
Before the April elections, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights seized from Syria in the Six Day War of 1967.
& # 39; Empty promise & # 39;
Netanyahu along with his right-wing and religious allies won most of the seats in the April polls, but failed to form a coalition and opted for an unprecedented second election in five months.
Again he faces a difficult challenge from former military chief Benny Gantz and his Blue and White centrist alliance.
Gantz, who in the past talked about keeping the Jordan Valley under Israel's control forever, said: "I have no doubt that this will be another empty promise because there is nothing behind."
The right-wing nationalist votes will be key to Netanyahu's efforts to continue his reign as the prime minister with more years of service to Israel.
"We understand that the prime minister has said that (the annexation) is the carrot of Trump's plan, the question that remains is what is the stick, what will we have to give?" asked former justice minister Ayelet Shaked, who heads a union of far-right parties.
Netanyahu also faces a possible accusation for corruption pending a hearing scheduled for early October.
Israel occupied the West Bank in the Six Day War of 1967 in a movement never recognized by the international community.
Their settlements there are considered illegal under international law and the main obstacles to peace, since they are built on land that the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Israel says that the Jordan Valley is vital for your safety.