The Palestinian Authority will hold its weekly meeting in the Jordan Valley on Monday, the latest move in a tug with Israel over the strip of West Bank land.
Israel on Sunday held a cabinet meeting in the valley, days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to annex it if re-elected this week, drawing international condemnation.
PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem announced Sunday that the meeting will take place in the Palestinian village of Fasayil instead of its usual Ramallah location.
Netanyahu held his cabinet meeting on Sunday outside the West Bank settlement of Petza’el, near Fasayil, where it approved a proposal to begin legalizing a wildcat outpost in the Jordan Valley after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit rescinded his opposition to the plan.
The premier told Army Radio later Sunday that if reelected he plans to annex “vital” parts of the West Bank beyond the Jordan Valley and the major settlement blocs, and do so in coordination with the United States.
Separately, during the cabinet meeting Netanyahu updated ministers on his appointment of a team led by Prime Minister’s Office director Ronen Peretz that will be responsible for formulating the plan to annex the Jordan Valley.
Keeping control of the territory enjoys wide backing in Israel where it is widely considered a key security asset because it provides a buffer zone against potential attacks from the east.
Palestinians, however, say there can be no independent state that doesn’t control the border. With annexation they would lose a fertile area, which is home to many Palestinian farms and is one of the few remaining areas of the West Bank with open space for development.
Netanyahu’s annexation plans have sparked a cascade of international condemnations. Critics say it could inflame the Middle East and eliminate any remaining Palestinian hope of establishing a state.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to cancel any previous agreements with Israel if it goes ahead with the move, and Amman has warned that extending sovereignty would kill the already moribund peace process and could affect the peace treaty between the countries.
Abbas also said last week that the Palestinians maintain “the right to defend our rights and achieve our goals through all available means regardless of the consequences,” according to a Wafa report.
PA Social Affairs Minister Ahmad Majdalani told The Times of Israel that Abbas was only referring to “means” considered legitimate by international law.
Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, also slammed Netanyahu’s annexation announcement, arguing that if the prime minister brings the plan to fruition, he will have set the peace process back a century.
“Netanyahu announced his plan to annex the Jordan Valley and Palestine’s 37.2-kilometer shore along the Dead Sea,” tweeted Erekat, who lives in the Jordan Valley city of Jericho, which would become a virtual island of Palestinian land surrounded by a sea of Israel under Netanyahu’s plan. “If he succeeds, he will have buried any chance for peace for the next 100 years. Israelis and the international community must stop this insanity. Annexation is a crime. It means reinforcing apartheid, violence, extremism and the spilling of blood.”
Erekat later issued a formal statement calling on the international community to recognize a Palestinian state and boycott settlement goods.