Benjamin Netanyahu vows to join forces with Donald Trump to annex Israeli West Bank settlements as voters hit the polls in election

Benjamin Netanyahu vows to join forces with Donald Trump to annex Israeli West Bank settlements as voters hit the polls in election

- in Usa News

ISRAELIS are going to the polls in a general election that could see the country annex large parts of the West Bank if Benjamin Netanyahu holds on to power.

The Prime Minister has made extending Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank and annexing Jewish settlements a centrepiece of his re-election campaign.

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara cast their votes in Israel’s election
Heidi Levine
Donald Trump is due to unveil his Middle East peace plan
AP:Associated Press

Tuesday’s vote is the second this year and Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party is currently running neck and neck with the centrist Blue and White party, headed by ex-military chief Benny Gantz.

The annexation plan was announced earlier in the campaign though Mr Netanyahu.

The Prime Minister, however, said he would wait until the publication of US President Donald Trump’s long-awaited plan for a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

“I want to receive a clear mandate from you to apply Israeli sovereignty over all settlements,” he said.

“Out of respect to President Trump, I’ll wait with the application of sovereignty until after the president presents his plan.

“I am waiting to do this in maximum coordination with Trump.”

Mr Gantz hasn’t publicly stated whether Blue and White backs the annexation plan or if he supports a Palestinian state.

Before the last election, Trump gave Netanyahu a boost with US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

He also controversially moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The US president said of the current ballot it “will be a very interesting outcome. It’s gonna be close”.

The election was called after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition following an April election in which Likud and Blue and White were tied, each taking 35 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, or parliament.

With Likud and Blue and White predicted again to have the same number both will need the support of smaller parties.

Talks on forming a new coalition are expected to start as soon as voting ends around 10pm local time and exit polls are published.

Former Netanyahu ally Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the right-wing secular Yisrael Beiteinu party, could end up holding the balance of power.

He prevented the Prime Minister forming a coalition after the last election because he refused to back down in a dispute with religious parties over a exempting ultra-Orthodox young men from military service.

If Netanyahu wins religious and nationalist allies are expected to approve legislation that would grant Netanyahu immunity from prosecution.

Israel’s attorney general has recommended pressing criminal charges against him in three separate corruption cases, pending a long delayed pre-trial hearing scheduled next month.

The Prime Minister announcing his annexation plan
AFP or licensors

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