Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins the upcoming general election.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday he would annex settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins another term in office in a vote on Tuesday, a late pre-election promise that would enrage Palestinians and the Muslim world.
In an interview to Israel's Channel 12 News, Netanyahu was asked why he hadn't extended Israeli sovereignty to large West Bank settlements, as it has done in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, other territory illegally seized during the 1967 Middle East war.
"On the way"
"Who says that we won't do it? We are on the way and we are discussing it," Netanyahu said. "You are asking whether we are moving on to the next stage - the answer is yes, we will move to the next stage. I am going to extend (Israeli) sovereignty and I don't distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements."
Palestinians want to establish a state in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
Some 500,000 Israelis live in illegally built settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that are also home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians.
Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005.
Some of the parties Netanyahu said he would seek to include in a coalition government if he wins the election advocate annexing parts of an already illegally occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu is competing with those parties for pro-settler voters in the April 9 election.
His comments are likely to appeal to such voters, who object to ceding stolen Palestinian land back to Palestinians.
Illegal settlements are one of the most heated issues in efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, frozen since 2014.
Most countries consider settlements that Israel has built on Palestinian land to be illegal.
Israel disputes this citing historical ties and says the future of the land should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.
The United States broke with decades of international consensus last month by recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory Israel illegally stole from Syria.