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Israeli occupation soldiers stand guard as members of parliament tour the Jordan Valley near Bardala, West Bank. Image Credit: New York Times

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia on Wednesday condemned as a “dangerous escalation” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial pledge to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected in September 17 polls.

“The kingdom affirms that this declaration is a very dangerous escalation against the Palestinian people and represents a flagrant violation of the United Nations charter and the principles of international law,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, citing the royal court.

Saudi Arabia also called for an “emergency meeting” of the foreign ministers of the 57 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the SPA added.

Arab foreign ministers also condemned the plan as an “aggression” saying it undermines any chances of a peace settlement with the Palestinians.

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Netanyahu said on Tuesday he planned to annex the Jordan Valley, a large swathe of the occupied West Bank, if he wins a closely contested election just a week away.

Israel captured and occupied the West Bank in the 1967 war in a move never recognised by the international community.

Palestinians seek to make it part of a future state.

The Arab League “considers his announcement a dangerous development and a new Israeli aggression by declaring the intention to violate the international law,” Arab foreign ministers said in a statement after a meeting in Cairo.

Netanyahu’s declaration is a serious escalation that breaches all international conventions and resolutions, and an expression of electoral exploitation in its worst form, without respect to the legitimacy of international resolutions.

- Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan | UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

“The league regards these statements as undermining the chances of any progress in the peace process and will torpedo all its foundations,” the statement said.

Arab foreign ministers had been holding a meeting in Cairo, seat of the Arab League, but added an emergency session after Netanyahu made his comments on live television.

Saeb Erekat, the longtime chief Palestinian negotiator, warned Tuesday night that if Netanyahu manages to put through his plan, he would have “succeeded in burying even any chance of peace between Palestinians and Israelis”.

The Israeli, the international community must stop such madness. We need to end the conflict and not to keep it for another 100 years.

He added that unilateral annexation of Occupied Territory was a war crime.

“The Israeli, the international community must stop such madness,” he said. “We need to end the conflict and not to keep it for another 100 years.”

In a possible sign of Palestinian anger, rockets fired from Gaza later on Tuesday night set off alarms in southern Israel, including in Ashdod, where Netanyahu was hustled offstage by bodyguards to take cover in the middle of a campaign speech.

The Arab and Islamic worlds’ preoccupation with many local and regional crises will not affect the status of the Palestinian cause. Israel’s attempts to impose a fait accompli policy will not obliterate the inalienable and protected rights of the Palestinian people.

- Saudi Royal Court

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), wrote on Twitter that the Israeli leader was out to impose a “greater Israel on all of historical Palestine and (carry) out an ethnic cleansing agenda”.

Hanan Ashrawi told AFP that Netanyahu was “not only destroying the two-state solution, he is destroying all chances of peace”.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Twitter called Netanyahu’s plan a “serious escalation”.

Jordan and Egypt are the only Arab states to have peace treaties with Israel.

Fighting for his political life after an inconclusive election in April, Netanyahu also reaffirmed a pledge to annex all of the colonies Israel has established in the West Bank.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said in early May that he hoped Israel would take a hard look at President Donald Trump’s upcoming Middle East peace proposal before “proceeding with any plan” to annex West Bank colonies.

About the Jordan Valley

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Palestinian agricultural workers in a field outside Jericho, in the West Bank. Image Credit: New York Times

Around 65,000 Palestinians and 11,000 Israeli colonists 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 area has enormous potential for agricultural and energy projects, among other uses. The Dead Sea draws tourists, and salt and minerals are mined there.

Palestinians see the Jordan Valley as their future breadbasket and Israel have been steadily uprooting Arab farmers and herders from the area.

The Jordan Valley runs along the east edge of the West Bank, the heavily Palestinian-populated area taken by Israel in the 1967 war, marking its boundary with neighboring Jordan. According to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, nearly 90 per cent of the Jordan Valley and the area around the northern Dead Sea has already been designated as part of what is known as Area C — meaning it is under full Israeli security and civil control.

The areas not designated as Area C include the city of Jericho — one of the world’s earliest settlements dating back to 9000 BCE — which would not be annexed under Netanyahu’s proposal.

Jericho today is a Palestinian city in the West Bank.

It is located in the Jordan Valley, near Jordan River to the east and occupied Jerusalem to the west. It is governed by the Palestinian National Authority.

Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 war.

It is considered Occupied Territory and Israeli colonies established are illegal under international law.

Nonetheless, about 200 colonies have been established in the West Bank and in occupied East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their capital under a two-state solution to the conflict.