Netanyahu Gambles on West Bank Annexation Vow
With Benjamin Netanyahu facing a tight election tomorrow, the scandal-tainted prime minister has made a once-shunned notion a top campaign issue: the annexation of West Bank lands.
In the 52 years since it conquered the West Bank, Israel has steered clear of taking a step that would draw even greater international condemnation than its longtime occupation.
But, mindful of the welcome reception of such a move from nationalist voters he’s courting, Netanyahu suggested out of the blue Saturday evening he’d extend sovereignty over West Bank areas where there are Israeli settlements. That could constitute as much as 60 percent of the territory, when taking things like roads that service the settlements into account.
It could all be a ploy to shift the campaign focus from the corruption allegations against him, and Netanyahu has made incendiary remarks just before election day before, only to walk them back.
The comments risk torpedoing U.S. President Donald Trump’s long-awaited peace plan, which already is in trouble after the U.S. declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital in December 2017, souring relations with Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s main challenger, former military chief Benny Gantz, said in response that he supports “looking into a peace agreement” and won’t take unilateral steps.
Israelis will have a chance to choose who to believe tomorrow.
Nielsen out | Trump’s frustration over his inability to fulfill his 2016 campaign promise to curb illegal immigration led him to oust his second homeland security chief, as the president eyes his re-election prospects. Jennifer Jacobs reports that Kirstjen Nielsen yesterday resigned at Trump’s request after his decision last month to give a larger say on immigration policy to a hard-line aide, Stephen Miller, who had complained Nielsen was too weak.
Reaching out | U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May dropped her penchant for stilted lectern speeches in favor of a cozy address to try and re-start stalled Brexit talks with arch-rival Jeremy Corbyn. But while some ministers are softening their stance on keeping the U.K. in a post-Brexit customs union with the EU, it may be too little, too late to get the opposition leader on board. May wants progress before Wednesday’s EU summit, where the bloc could insist on a long extension aimed at exerting some calm over the Brexit chaos.
Oil jitters | Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar’s drive to take Tripoli could lead to some of the bloodiest fighting since a 2011 civil war toppled Muammar Qaddafi. The assault on the OPEC member’s internationally recognized government has pushed up world oil prices and prompted the U.S. to issue a stern warning to halt the advance of Haftar’s forces.
Fading fortunes | Opinion polls show Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party has slipped into a tie with the opposition Conservatives before elections in October. His reputation has been dented by a scandal over whether he and his staff pressured the former attorney general to intervene in a legal case involving a Montreal-based construction giant.
Trillion dollar club | Indonesia’s presidential election has turned into a fight over which candidate can transform the country into an elite economic superpower. This time, millennials and the middle class will hold a decisive vote, leading President Joko Widodo and his challenger Prabowo Subianto to employ “influencers” to win over the nation’s 130 million active social media users and tip the balance in the April 17 poll.
What to Watch
- Estonia moved closer to forming a government that would include an anti-immigrant party, potentially strengthening the hand of nationalists before next month’s EU elections.
- Thousands of Sudanese demonstrators gathered at the national army headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, over the weekend to urge the military to topple President Omar al-Bashir after months of protests sparked by soaring living costs.
- Trump is preparing a novel campaign strategy for a president who’s pulling the U.S. out of the international Paris accord on climate change, cheer-leading for coal, and suggesting that wind turbines cause cancer: He’s going to tout his environmental credentials.
And finally... Rahul Gandhi, president of India’s main opposition Congress party, won’t only have to compete against two serious contenders when the nation’s elections kick off on Thursday — but several others who share his famous last name. It’s a common practice for rivals to field dummy candidates in a bid to confuse voters or circumvent election spending limits. And Gandhi’s not alone: In another seat, fellow Congress candidate Subhash Wankhede is facing as many as five namesakes.
--With assistance from Stuart Biggs and Ruth Pollard.
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