Over a hundred Palestinians gathered at an abandoned hotel in the northern Dead Sea on Saturday to protest a pre-election promise by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea and apply Israeli sovereignty there.
The protesters climbed onto the Lido structure, which has largely remained empty since 1967 and is located south of the West Bank city of Jericho, and waved Palestinian flags before they were dispersed by Israel Defense Forces soldiers. There were no reports of arrests, but videos from the scene showed scuffles between troops and demonstrators.
The Kan public broadcaster reported that protesters were also demonstrating against house demolitions in the area.
The prime minister said before the elections earlier this month that he would annex the Jordan Valley area and the northern Dead Sea (some 25 percent of the West Bank) immediately after he formed a new government, and then later, in coordination with the US, would annex “all the settlements” in the West Bank, the Jewish enclaves in Hebron and other unspecified “vital” areas.
“There is one place where we can apply Israeli sovereignty immediately after the elections,” Netanyahu said earlier this month, speaking with a map of the Jordan Valley on an easel next to him. “If I receive from you, citizens of Israel, a clear mandate to do so… today I announce my intention to apply, with the formation of the next government, Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.”
Israel’s September 17 elections have produced political deadlock, however, with neither Netanyahu nor his rival, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party, having a clear path to a Knesset majority.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned on Thursday that he would cancel all diplomatic agreements with Israel if the next Israeli government carries out Netanyahu’s campaign promise to apply Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank.
מפגינים פלסטינים הניפו את דגל פלסטין בצפון ים המלח במחאה על כוונות הסיפוח של ישראל; חיילי צה"ל פינו אותם מהמקום pic.twitter.com/Do5mXQVlnq
— החדשות – N12 (@N12News) September 28, 2019
Abbas slammed Netanyahu for “arrogantly” promising the annexation of the Jordan Valley and Israel’s “colonial settlements,” and warned a religious war could break out over Israel’s policies in Jerusalem.
The prospect of 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.
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) September 28, 2019
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.