Israel to vote: Netanyahu promises the annexation of the territories. Gantz: "Irresponsible"

6.3 million voters will vote tomorrow to choose the next government. The opposition tries to end 13 years of power of the outgoing Prime Minister. With US support, Netanyahu plays the card of the West Bank and East Jerusalem territories to win over settlers (and the right wing).

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - On the eve of the general elections scheduled for April 9, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised the annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank in case of victory at the polls. The response was immediate from the opposition candidate, former senior army officer Benny Gantz at the helm of the "Blue White" coalition. He termed the prime minister's words "irresponsible" and slammed such "unilateral" initiatives.

Tomorrow, about 6.3 million Israeli voters are called to vote in what, according to experts and analysts, more than a vote is a "referendum" on Netanyahu. The objective of the opposition is to end its 13 years of power. However, the renewed American support under the Trump presidency, which led to the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and the relocation of the embassy, ‚Äč‚Äčalong with sovereignty over the Golan Heights, could prove decisive for victory.

The settlements are considered illegal by the international community, but Israel disputes this decision. In his last term, the Prime Minister strengthened the employment policy, authorizing the construction of "18,000 new housing units". The declarations of these hours are therefore aimed at strengthening the consensus among the settlers, about 8% of the total electorate of 620,000 inhabitants, including those in East Jerusalem.

In an interview with the local press, Netanyahu announced the intention to launch a "new phase" on the settlement policy in the aftermath of re-election. He confirmed the intention of "extending the sovereignty" of Israel, relying on Washington's support with which it has been in "contact" for at least "six months". "There is no alternative - he added - to an Israeli sovereignty over the settlements and we could not allow a Palestinian state to take possession of those areas". Finally he concluded by assuring that no inhabitant will be removed "from the settlements and Israel will control the territory north of the Jordan".

His main challenger, Benny Gantz,  labelled the prime minister as "irresponsible" and wonders why "in 13 years of power" Netanyahu has not so far "never extended" Israel's sovereignty over the territories. "I think that announcing a historic and strategic decision in the bubble of an electoral campaign - he added - is not serious but irresponsible" and reiterated his firm opposition to "unilateral" initiatives on the subject.

As pointed out to AsiaNews by Sobhy Makhoul, Maronite Christian analyst and administrator of the Christian Media Center, the outcome of the vote appears uncertain and the outgoing premier insists on external "threats" and "internal" control of the territory to secure a new mandate. The needle of the scale, he added, could be represented "by the religious" and by the extreme right, which Netanyahu tries to cajole with these new electoral promises, relying on the United States.