The Israeli government has issued its approval for a settlement in the occupied West Bank, in what looks like a desperate attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to boost his waning support ahead of the upcoming vote.
All Israeli settlements on the occupied territories are deemed illegal under international law, yet Tel Aviv distinguishes between those it approved and those it did not. On Sunday, the cabinet issued a decree recognizing one such squatter settlement – Mevoot Yericho located in the Jordan Valley – as an official one.
“The government passed the prime minister’s motion to build Mevoot Yericho,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said following a weekly government meeting, which was conspicuously held in the Jordan Valley this time.Such movements are quite rare, as, according to the Israeli media, only five similar decisions were taken over the past decade.
The fact that this step was made just days ahead of the upcoming snap elections prompted some people, including Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, to believe that it is for the sake of Netanyahu’s electoral campaign.The prime minister earlier vowed to annex the whole Jordan Valley, which accounts for roughly one third of the occupied West Bank, if elected.
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Mandelblit criticized the settlement approval, arguing that there was “no vital or urgent need” for it and adding that it could be detrimental to Israel’s international posture.
Meanwhile, the situation for Netanyahu indeed appears to be desperate. Mired in corruption scandals, the troubled prime minister barely managed to squeak out a victory against his rival, ex-military chief Benny Gantz leading a centrist Blue and White Alliance, in April.
Yet, he still failed to form a ruling coalition in a development that proved to be quite humiliating for him as he became the first ever prime minister to commit such a blunder.
Now, with his popularity gradually fading, he seems to be ready to stop at nothing to win the support of the rightwingers, which may be crucial for him.However, his trump card of annexing the Jordan Valley might still be turned against him as it could effectively spell an end to the two-state solution and stir up a hornet’s nest of geopolitical tensions.