Israelis face pivotal election, possible West Bank annexation under Netanyahu


Turkey's top officials on Sunday slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks on annexing Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected.

A view shows the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba as Palestinian houses are seen in Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on April 7. "Let's go, so we can win everything".

"We don't love the fact that he's got tattoos on his face, that's not a good sign", Trump said.

The Israeli prime minister was asked if he was familiar with the details of the United States plan, replying he knew "what should be in it".

"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.

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The closure will affect the tens of thousands of Palestinians who legally work in Israel every day, a lot of them in construction and maintenance.

Taking Netanyahu at his word, Palestinians seeking statehood in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem called his settlement annexation remarks a violation of worldwide law regarding occupied territory.

"I believe that we Arabs must be able to look into this issue and try to ease those fears that Israel has through initiatives and real deals between us and Israel", he told a panel discussing geopolitics. Ahead of Tuesday's election, Netanyahu has pledged to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

After decades of settlement-building, more than 400,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank, protected by an Israeli military presence that divides some Palestinian communities and cuts off towns and villages with checkpoints.

The Palestinians and many countries consider settlements to be illegal under the Geneva conventions, which ban settling on territory occupied in war. Israel disputes this, citing security needs and biblical, historical and political connections to the land.

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Speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas, Trump said he made the snap decision during a discussion with his top Middle East peace advisers, including the USA ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

These moves include last month's recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and last year's opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

That followed his December 2017 decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to move the USA embassy there. The settlements have also been the most contentious sticking point in the peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and the talks have remained stalled since 2014.

Democrats had called out President Donald Trump's social media usage and strategies - even suggesting an election meddling campaign conspiring with Russian bots and trolls - but since they could not beat him, now they are joining him, Politico reports.

Trump later repeated previous allegations that "the Democrats have even allowed the awful scourge of anti-Semitism to take root in their party and in their country", pointing to Democrats' recent move to block a measure condemning the boycott-Israel movement from the Yemen War Powers Resolution.

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