Netanyahu pledges to annex West Bank territory

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to annex areas of the occupied West Bank ahead of the coming week's Israeli Knesset elections. In an April 5 interview on Israeli Channel 12 TV, he was asked about plans to annex Israeli settlement blocs in the occupied territory, and responded: "Will we go to the next phase? The answer is yes. We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty... I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements. From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians." (Times of Israel, NPR)

In a part of the interview seemingly reported in English only by the independent Palestinian Ma'an News Agency, Netanyahu also appeared to broach annexation of all Area C, the zone of mixed Israeli and Palestinian control, which covers 62% of the West Bank's territory. Asked about the future status of Area C, he reportedly replied: "I promise that you will be surprised. I cannot talk about the plan, but Trump is a big friend and I doubt there will ever be any bigger friend than him."

Israeli authorities continue to issue demolition orders to Palestinian homes and structrues in Area C. The most recent such order was delivered this week to Palestinian-owned home and adjacent structures in the South Hebron Hills, or Masafer Yatta area. Around 3,000 Israeli settlers live in illegal Jewish-only settlements in the Yatta region. (Ma'an News Agency)

Netanyahu to stay on as prime minister?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been given a chance to form a government for the sixth time after failing to do so following the April election following five terms in office. President Reuven Rivlin formally gave Netanyahu four weeks to form the government after a meeting at the President's Residence with Blue & White leader Benny Gantz failed to bring about a breakthrough. (Jerusalem Post) Gantz is former IDF chief of staff, and hardly dinstinuishable from Netanyahu on the Palestinian question.

Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab-supported Joint List, had nonetheless said he would support Gantz to form a coalition and become prime minister. In any case, Joint List is now the third largest bloc in the Knesset, and Odeh is poised to become the leader of the opposition no mater who becomes PM—the first Arab to hold this position in Israel's history. (Times of Israel)