JERUSALEM – Israel is considering annexing major West Bank settlement blocs if the Palestinians unilaterally seek world recognition of a state, an Israeli official said Tuesday — moves that would deal a grave blow to prospects for negotiating a peace deal between the two sides.
Israel has refrained from taking such a diplomatically explosive step for four decades. The fact that it is considering doing so reflects how seriously it is concerned by the Palestinian campaign to win international recognition of a state in the absence of peacemaking.
The Palestinians launched that campaign after peace talks foundered over Israeli construction in West Bank settlements. On Tuesday, the Israeli Interior Ministry said it would decide next month whether to give final approval to build 1,500 apartments in two Jewish enclaves in east Jerusalem. Israel captured both east Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan in 1967.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem, home to shrines sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, immediately after seizing it. But it carefully avoided annexing the West Bank, where 300,000 settlers now live among 2.5 million Palestinians.
Although it is widely assumed that under any peace deal, Israel would hold onto major settlements it has built in the past 44 years, any decision to formally annex West Bank territory would be a precedent-setting move that could increase Israel’s already considerable international isolation. The Palesti… >>>