Tel Aviv (dpa) - Israel's plans to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank have provoked fierce international criticism.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced that in the event of his re-election next week, Israel would immediately extend its sovereignty to the area bordering on Jordan. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey warned Wednesday of an escalation of the situation in the Middle East.
The Palestinians claim the West Bank as part of a future state of their own. With an annexation of areas there, this goal would be even more unlikely. The US is about to present a peace plan to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Aiman Safadi said on Twitter that Netanyahu's announcement was a dangerous step that undermined all peace efforts. "It will lead to more violence and conflict," he wrote. Such a measure was completely null and void and a dangerous escalation against the Palestinian people, said the royal house in Riyadh, as reported by the Saudi state news agency SPA.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter that Netanyahu continues to spread "illegal, unlawful and aggressive" messages before the election. The rights of her "Palestinian siblings" will "defend Turkey to the end."
Even before the general election in April, Netanyahu had announced the incorporation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Just over a week ago he repeated this announcement. However, he had never implemented similar announcements in the past. The Prime Minister had in the past for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state pronounced.
Netanyahu stressed on Tuesday that the announced US peace plan "is a historic opportunity to extend Israeli sovereignty to settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank)". He will, however, wait until the presentation of the peace plan to be presented after the election. In the Jordan Valley, however, he could be directly active, said Netanyahu.
Jordan is the only Arab country besides Egypt that has a peace treaty with neighboring Israel. There is no official diplomatic relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Recently, however, there has been a rapprochement behind the scenes as Sunni Saudi Arabia, like Israel, views Shiite Iran as its archenemy.
The Jordan Valley runs along the border with Jordan and accounts for about 30 percent of the West Bank according to the Israeli human rights organization Betselem. According to the Oslo Peace Accords, 90 percent of the Jordan Valley is under Israeli administration. In total, around 60,000 Palestinians and around 5,000 Israeli settlers live in the Jordan Valley. Israel had already referred to the strategic importance of the Jordan Valley for its own security in the past.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened, according to a report by the news agency Wafa, with the annexation of parts of the occupied Palestinian territories would end all agreements with Israel.
The radical Islamic Gaza-ruling Hamas also condemned the announcement. "Netanyahu is looking for the right-wing voters by selling illusions to his target audience that he will maintain the occupation of our country forever," a spokesman said.
In Tuesday's election, a close race between Netanyahu's right-wing conservative Likud and the opposition Alliance of the Middle, blue-and-white by ex-military chief Benny Gantz, is emerging.
Israel conquered the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967 during the Six-Day War. There live today more than 600,000 Israeli settlers in more than 200 settlements.