Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that he may annex the Jordan Valley and other parts of the occupied West Bank "in coordination" with the United States — a move that risks shattering the fragile status quo in the volatile region.
"This is a historic opportunity to apply sovereignty to communities in Judea and Samaria," he told reporters in Jerusalem Tuesday, referring to the West Bank.
"I request a mandate to apply Jewish sovereignty to all communities and I intend to do so in coordination with the United States," he said, adding that the U.S. would present its long-awaited Israel-Palestinian peace plan a few days after the election.
"If I choose, I will contain Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea. This will be the first step if I choose," he said.
His announcement was an apparent last-ditch attempt to attract right-wing voters before Israel heads to the polls in an unprecedented repeat election next week.
The country is holding a second election on Sept. 17 after parliament was dissolved following an April vote in which Netanyahu failed to cobble together a government.
It is not the first time he has vowed to annex parts of the the region — ahead of the previous elections in April he pledged to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank and then repeated the pledge in August butgave no deadline.
Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war with its Arab neighbors. Most of the international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law and an impediment to a two-state solution to the conflict.
Today, the West Bank is home to almost 3 million Palestinians and more than 400,000 Israelis,according to figures collated by Peace Now, an Israeli organization that advocates a two-state solution. The Israelis live in around 132 settlements that were established by the government and some 113 outposts that were founded without government approval, according to the group.