THE RUNDOWN | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to annex Area C of the West Bank should he win in the Israeli elections. Would he ultimately annex the entire West Bank? Former Israeli politicians Michael Kleiner and the architect of the Oslo Accords Yossi Beilin debate.
Story: Netanyahu reiterated his promise not to uproot a single Israeli settler from the West Bank, saying doing so would be tantamount to “ethnic cleansing”. The premier, who is in the midst of a hard-fought battle for re-election, reiterated his vow to extend Israel’s sovereignty to settlements in the West Bank if he wins another term, but clarified that he has no intentions of annexing all of the West Bank. ‘I did not say I would annex the West Bank, I said I would apply Israeli law to Jewish communities in Judea & Samaria,’ Netanyahu affirmed, using a biblical term to refer to the territory of the West Bank. ‘I said time and time again, I will not remove a single Israeli forcibly, I am against ethnic cleansing,’ he added. Over the course of more than ten years in power, Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected relinquishing Israeli military control over territory west of the Jordan River. Israel maintains full security and administrative control over the West Bank’s ‘Area C’, which comprises some 60 percent of the territory.
Many of Netanyahu’s right-wing political rivals openly call for the annexation of Area C, where most major Israeli settlement blocs are concentrated, while others call for the application of Israeli sovereignty over the entire West Bank where some 430,000 Israeli settlers live among 2.6 million Palestinians. Netanyahu’s pledge to extend sovereignty over settlements were criticized domestically as a ploy to appeal to right-wing voters, and internationally as a threat to the two-state solution.