JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday, two weeks before an early parliamentary election, to annex existing West Bank settlements and not dismantle them.
"We will extend Jewish sovereignty to all settlements as part of the Land of Israel, as part of the State of Israel," he said when he inaugurated a school in the West Bank settlement of Elkana.
In a speech marking the start of the new school year, Netanyahu did not specify a timeframe for the implementation of this promise, which was made before the elections last April, which failed to form a new government, which called for early elections on 17 of this month.
Israeli media quoted him as saying that no settler would be uprooted from the West Bank, and that the evacuation of settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005 would not be repeated.
Earlier, Netanyahu said he had told US President Donald Trump that Israel would not expel a single settler as part of any future peace plan.
Netanyahu's remarks about annexing settlements are frequent as US positions in support of Israel's annexation of parts of the West Bank emerge as part of any possible settlement with the Palestinians. US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman voiced such a stance in June.
The prime minister's new rhetoric comes as he seeks to rally the maximum number of votes, amid fierce competition between his Likud party and his right-wing allies on the one hand, and a blue-white bloc on the other, as happened in the last election.
According to the Israeli Peace Now movement, more than 630,000 settlers live in 132 settlements in the West Bank.