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“I spoke yesterday with President Trump, a very important conversation for Israel’s security,” Netanyahu said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed Monday that he talked with United States President Donald Trump about the possible annexation of the Jordan Valley, suggesting that Washington was open to the move.
“Historic opportunities” must be seized Netanyahu said and called on rival Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to work together and form a government of national unity that would put the bid forward and at the same time avoid a possible third general election.
The incumbent premier said he talked with Trump "about Iran, but we also talked at length about historic opportunities that stand before us in the coming months - among them are [establishing] the Jordan Valley as the recognized eastern border of the State of Israel, as well as a defense treaty with the United States. Things we could only dream of, but now we have the opportunity to realize them.”
“That’s why I’ve made Benny Gantz an offer - let’s realize these historic opportunities in a unity government that we establish right now in the format I’ve suggested. I’ve gone very far [in political concessions] toward this goal because we must realize these opportunities.”
In what was seen as a bid to attract support from right-wing voters, the Israeli PM had promised in September that he would immediately annex the Jordan Valley if he stays in power.
Two general elections in April and September have failed to produce a government. The Knesset (the local parliament) faces a Dec. 11 deadline to choose a candidate who would try to form a government, or send the country to an unprecedented situation where third elections would be held in 12 months.
Netanyahu’s Likud party said Monday their leader is seeking to serve as PM in a rotational government with Gantz and his party Blue and White only for the time it would take to realize the annexation.
The Blue and White party also supports the annexation, however, Gantz has not reacted to Netanyahu’s offer yet he previously rejected the possibility of a coalition with the latter, saying he won’t’ join a government headed by an indicted PM. The party reportedly fears Netanyahu would use his time as premier to avoid criminal prosecution through immunity.
On Monday, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit formally indicted Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three corruption cases. The premier who has 30 days to get immunity from the Knesset blasted the indictment as a “coup attempt."
Netanyahu’s annexation announcement comes after significant moves in favor of Israel were made over the past months by the Trump administration.
First, the U.S. embassy was relocated to Jerusalem which was recognized as the capital of the Jewish state, then Washington acknowledged Israel’s annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights and last month U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that his country no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank “inconsistent with international law.”
The Jordan Valley is the eastern part of West Bank bordering Jordan. Israel sees the area as a vital security asset. The zone encompasses about one-fifth of the West Bank and is home to some 65,000 Palestinians and 11,000 Israeli settlers living in around 30 settlements considered illegal under international law, according to the rights group B’Tselem.
Netanyahu who said that not a single Palestinian would be annexed in the process is apparently planning to turn the valley into a part of Israel with dozens of Palestinian enclaves.