Netanyahu agrees to annex West Bank in coalition deal

Israel's Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu makes a statement after Israel's President Isaac Herzog assigned him the task of forming a government, in Jerusalem, Nov 13, 2022. (MAYA ALLERUZZO / AP)

JERUSALEM – Israel's Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to annex the occupied West Bank in a coalition deal that was made public on Thursday.

Netanyahu, who signed a series of coalition deals on Wednesday and Thursday, announced that he had succeeded in forming a coalition government that is set to bring him back to power as the leader of the most right-wing government in Israeli history.

In a deal that Netanyahu's Likud party signed with the Religious Zionism, a pro-settler party led by Bezalel Smotrich, Netanyahu promised to draft and advance a plan to annex the West Bank that Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians hope to establish an independent state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital.

The timing of the move to annex the West Bank is not mentioned, but the agreement stated that the implementation of the plan will take into account "national and international interests of Israel"

According to the agreement, a copy of which has been seen by Xinhua, "the Prime Minister will lead the formulation and promotion of a policy within which (Israeli) sovereignty will be extended to Judea and Samaria." Judea and Samaria is a frequently used Israeli term for the West Bank.

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The timing of the move is not mentioned, but the agreement stated that the implementation of the plan will take into account "national and international interests of Israel."

A coalition deal that Netanyahu signed with Jewish Power, an extreme-right party led by Itamar Ben-Gvir, says that a law that bans candidates who incite racism from running in parliamentary election will be canceled.

This AFP graphic dated May 13, 2022 shows the map of Israel locating the West Bank and other cities.

Netanyahu's reliance on ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties for his return to power has raised concerns in Israel. 

"The government being formed here is dangerous, radical and irresponsible. This will end badly," outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist party of Yesh Atid, warned in a televised address on Thursday evening.

"Netanyahu is weak, and they (his partners) have formed the most extreme government in the nation's history," said Lapid.

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Netanyahu needs to finalize the agreements with his coalition partners and appoint ministers before a deadline on Jan 2, 2023, the latest date his government can be sworn in.