JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a deeply controversial pledge on Tues­day to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank if re-elected in Sept 17 polls.

Palestinians immediately reacted by saying Netan­yahu was destroying any hopes for peace, while his electoral opponents accused him of a cynical play for right-wing nationalist votes.

In his televised speech, the prime minister also reiterated his intention to annex Israeli settlements in the wider West Bank if re-elected.

But he said he would do that in coordination with US President Donald Trump, whose peace plan is expec­ted to be unveiled sometime after the vote.

Those moves could effectively kill any remaining hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“There is one place where we can apply Israeli sovereignty immediately after the elections,” Netanyahu said during the address that inclu­­­ded a map of the Jordan Valley on an easel.

“If I receive from you, citizens of Israel, a clear mandate to do so I anno­unce my intention to apply with the formation of the next government Israeli sovereignty over Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.”

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2019