Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Saturday to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected, a dramatic policy shift apparently aimed at rallying his nationalist base in the final stretch of the tight race, the AP reports. Netanyahu has promoted Jewish settlement expansion in his four terms as prime minister, but until now refrained from presenting a detailed vision for the West Bank, seen by the Palestinians as the heartland of a future state. An Israeli annexation of large parts of the West Bank is bound to snuff out any last flicker of hope for an Israeli-Palestinian deal on the terms of a Palestinian state on lands Israel captured in 1967.
A so-called two-state solution has long been the preferred option of most of the international community. However, intermittent US mediation between Israelis and Palestinians ran aground after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital early in his term. The Palestinians, who seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, suspended contact with the US. More recently, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a plateau Israel captured from Syria in 1967. Netanyahu's settlement plan might also distract from a possible looming indictment on fraud and bribery charges, per Bloomberg. Polls have indicated a close race.
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