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Palestine, Turkey denounce Netanyahu's campaign pledge to change West Bank status

Updated April 07, 2019

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. — Reuters/File
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. — Reuters/File

Turkey on Sunday criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “irresponsible” for saying he would annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins Tuesday's election.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the West Bank, which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war, was Palestinian territory and Israel's occupation violated international law.

Take a look: Netanyahu won't move 'even one' settler for US peace plan

“Prime Minister Netanyahu's irresponsible statement to seek votes just before the Israeli general elections cannot and will not change this fact,” Cavusoglu tweeted.

Netanyahu, asked why he had not declared Israeli sovereignty over large West Bank settlements as Israel has already done in the occupied Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, said he was already discussing the move.

“I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty and I don't distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements,” he told Israel's Channel 12 News on Saturday.

Palestinian leaders reacted angrily, blaming what they said was a failure by world powers to stand up for international law.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman echoed those charges on Sunday. “Will Western democracies react or will they keep appeasing? Shame on them all!” Ibrahim Kalin tweeted.

Erdogan, whose AK Party has led Turkey for 16 years, has criticised the administration of United States President Donald Trump over its pronounced support for Israel, including Washington's decision to move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem.

The Palestinians and many countries deem settlements to be illegal under the Geneva conventions that bar settling on land captured in war. Israel disputes this, citing security needs and biblical, historical and political connections to the land.

The Palestinian foreign minister said Israel's leader will face a “real problem” if he follows through with his promise to annex the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Riad Malki told The Associated Press today on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Jordan that Netanyahu's pledge was likely aimed at rallying his nationalist base in the final stretch of a tight race. He added that Palestinians would resist such a policy if carried out.

Netanyahu has promoted Jewish settlement expansion in his four terms as prime minister, but until now refrained from presenting a detailed vision for the West Bank, viewed by Palestinians as the heartland of a future state.

It would mark a dramatic shift for Netanyahu, ahead of Tuesday's balloting.