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'You will not break us, Palestinians tell Netanyahu after Jordan Valley annexation pledge

Israeli soldiers carry their comrade towards the end of a 45 km march near the Jewish settlement of Tomer in the Jordan Valley January 2, 2014. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Jiftlik, West Bank Sep 12, 2019, 01.43 PM (IST)

Palestinians in the Jordan Valley on Wednesday accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of trying to steal their land after the right-wing leader pledged to annex the West Bank territory if successful in an election just six days away.

Netanyahu's declaration was widely seen as a bid to siphon away support from far-right rivals who have long advocated annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, territory Israel captured in a 1967 war, ahead of a tightly-contested September 17 vote.

While some in Israel consider the country's control over the Jordan valley as a security necessity, Palestinians see it as theirs and want it for a future state.

In the village of Jiftlik, farmers tilled land for vegetable and seed production along a long a stretch of the fertile valley that juts up against the biblical Jordan River, surrounded by desert mountain ranges.

"We tell Netanyahu, and whoever follows him, you will not break the Palestinians' will," said Hassan Al-Abedi, a Palestinian farmer who lives in the village.

"It's our parents' and grandparents land. We will hold onto it no matter what it costs," 55-year-old Abedi said.

Netanyahu on Tuesday (September 10) announced he intended, "after the establishment of a new government, to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea," drawing condemnation from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and leaders across the Arab world.

Around 65,000 Palestinians and 11,000 Israeli settlers live in the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. The main Palestinian city is Jericho, with around 28 villages and smaller Bedouin communities.

Story highlights

Netanyahu's declaration was widely seen as a bid to siphon away support from far-right rivals who have long advocated annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, territory Israel captured in a 1967 war, ahead of a tightly-contested September 17 vote