French President Emmanuel Macron and Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday said they “share concern” over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex West Bank areas, and reiterated their position that “there is no alternative to a two-state solution.”
Speaking by telephone, the two leaders also “agreed to stay in close contact over the coming weeks to avoid a dangerous rise in tension.”
Ahead of April’s election and once again in recent days, Netanyahu vowed to extend sovereignty to all Jewish settlements in the West Bank — a move tantamount to annexation.
Last week Netanyahu said he will move to extend sovereignty over the Jordan Valley immediately after forming a government, should he win the election.
Following the announcement, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi blasted Netanyahu’s statements as a “dangerous escalation.”
In recent days Netanyahu has said he will also annex additional “vital” parts of the West Bank, including areas with importance to security or to Israel’s heritage.
On Monday, Netanyahu announced that his annexation plan includes the settlement of Kiryat Arba and the Jewish enclaves in Hebron.
The Jewish community in Hebron is made up of several enclaves located deep in the heart of the largest Palestinian city. The several hundred Jews there live under heavy military guard amid tens of thousands of Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s statements are seen as aimed at shoring up nationalist support in Tuesday’s do-over vote.
Locked in a tight race and with legal woes hanging over him, Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival. In the final weeks of his campaign he has been doling out hard-line promises meant to draw staunchly right-wing voters to his Likud party.
Critics contend that Netanyahu’s pledges, if carried out, would inflame the Middle East and eliminate any remaining Palestinian hope of establishing a separate state. His political rivals have dismissed his talk of annexation as an election ploy, noting that he has refrained from annexing any territory during his more than a decade in power.
PA 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.
Keeping control of the Jordan Valley 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.