Spurning ICC Threat, Netanyahu Vows to Annex Settlements

Netanyahu pushes annexation plan as new elections loom

TEL AVIV –  Amid the controversy surrounding the International Criminal Court’s proposed probe into Israel for unsubstantiated war crimes claimed by the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday repeated his campaign pledge to annex all West Bank settlements as well as the Jordan Valley. 

“We are going to bring [secure] U.S. recognition for our sovereignty in the Jordan Valley … [and] in all of the settlements — those in the blocs and those that are beyond it,” Netanyahu said in a campaign video.

“That is the next stage. It is in my hands, and only I can accomplish this. Therefore I need you to vote for me,” Netanyahu said according to a translation by the Jerusalem Post.

The video comes two days ahead of the the Likud primaries in which Netanyahu will be pitted against his long-time rival within the party, Gideon Sa’ar.

In a bid to garner votes from the right, Sa’ar made a campaign stop in the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday evening and lit Hanukkah candles at the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Sa’ar expressed his unwavering support for the Jewish presence in the flashpoint holy city and vowed to help the community grow in numbers. In his capacity as education minister, Sa’ar launched a program for Israeli students to visit the city.

At a Likud event in Netanya, Sa’ar also said that if elected he would back Netanyahu in a bid to become Israel’s president when the incumbent, Reuven Rivlin, steps down in 2021.

Netanyahu responded to Sa’ar’s pledge to grow Jewish communities beyond the green line by releasing a video in which he told Likud voters that he is the only one with the power to annex West Bank settlements.

He also dismissed concerns that such an annexation would only fan the flames in a potential probe by the ICC into Israel’s policies in the West Bank.

The ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, on Friday said that there is a “basis” to probe Israel’s actions in the Palestinian territories, including alleged war crimes in Gaza during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

Netanyahu slammed the court for the announcement, which he called “pure anti-Semitism.”

He appealed to several heads of state with close ties to Israel to express their opposition to the decision.

Also on Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the probe “unfairly targets” Israel.

“As we made clear when the Palestinians purported to join the Rome Statute, we do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and they therefore are not qualified to obtain full membership, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities, or conferences, including the ICC,” Pompeo said.

“The United States remains deeply, firmly, and consistently committed to achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The only realistic path forward to end this conflict is through direct negotiations,” he added.

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