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September 11, 2019 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced his intention to annex the Jordan Valley, a large swathe of the occupied West Bank, if he wins a closely contested election.
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.
The move would carve out nearly a third of the West Bank, home to about 2.7m Palestinians, alongside the Dead Sea, and leave the major Palestinian city of Jericho isolated and cut off from the rest of the West Bank.
Israel captured the West Bank in a 1967 war and Palestinians, who signed interim peace deals with Israel in the 1990s that include security cooperation, seek to make it part of a future state.
Extending Israeli sovereignty to the sprawling settlements that divide up the West Bank would make it extremely difficult for future prime ministers to live up to pledges made in the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians.
Fighting for his political life after an inconclusive election in April, Netanyahu also reaffirmed a pledge to annex all of the settlements Israel has established in the West Bank.