Netanyahu Says 'Our Full Right' to Annex Jordan Valley, Despite ICC Prosecutor Report

PM says political deadlock hinders controversial move, adding: 'Exactly because of that we should form a government now and do it'

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a meeting with the Portuguese Prime Minister at the Sao Bento Palace in Lisbon, December 5, 2019.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a meeting with the Portuguese Prime Minister at the Sao Bento Palace in Lisbon, December 5, 2019.Credit: AFP
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

LISBON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Haaretz Thursday that it's Israel's full right to annex the Jordan Valley if it chooses to do so.

Earlier Thursday, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda expressed concern over Israeli proposals to annex this West Bank region.

Asked on the matter by reports in Lisbon, the premier said “It’s our full right to do so if we decide,” despite the ICC prosecutor’s report.

Asked about a timeline for the proposed annexation, Netanyahu said “there are some questions about what can be done in a transition government. Exactly because of that we should form a government now and do it.”

When asked whether he would agree to renounce serving first as prime minister in a rotation agreement if Kahol Lavan agrees to annex the Jordan Valley and to a defense treaty with the United States, Netanyahu said "those things will be achieved when I'm prime minister. I have thousands of hours on American prime-time TV and that has a certain influence on the United States, especially now. I won't be able [to influence] if I'm not prime minister."

Netanyahu refused to tell the press whether he intends to seek immunity from the Knesset in his three pending corruption cases and cancel Likud's primary election, arguing he wouldn't address personal matters in the briefing.

"I intend to invest every effort, despite Kahol Lavan's objection, to reach an agreement and prevent this truly unnecessary election. Benny Gantz can [prevent it] if he manages to overcome Yair Lapid and if [Avigdor] Lieberman overcomes himself," Netanyahu said, referring to Kahol Lavan co-leader and Yisrael Beiteinu chairman, who said he has no intention to have his party join a narrow, right-wing government headed by Netanyahu.

"I hope that a minority government with the Joint List is not an option," the premier said, reiterating a claim that his political rivals are backed by Arab lawmakers.

When asked why he refuses to resign, the prime minister said that "the public has chosen me. Let the public decide."

Responding on the option of holding a direct election for the prime minister between him and Gantz, Netanyahu said: "First, let's try to avoid another election, but this that's an option that's becoming interesting."

Earlier today, Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after his phone call conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday, when they also discussed the annexation of the Jordan Valley, which Netanyahu told voters in September he would achieve.

Before taking off from Tel Aviv, Netanyahu told reporters his meeting with Pompeo would be focused on “Iran, first of all,” a mutual defense treaty and a “future” American recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley.

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