ISLAMABAD: A panel of Israeli cabinet ministers has approved new legislation to annex the Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank.
The legislation, backed by far-right members of the ruling Likud party, was endorsed on Sunday, just days ahead of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s scheduled visit to the Middle East to push talks between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Authority, Press TV reported.
If it becomes law, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be unable to accept the US proposal to put the Jordan Valley under Palestinian control.
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who leads negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, challenged the motion, saying she would use her powers to block the legislation from being voted on in the parliament.
Israel occupied and then annexed the West Bank and East al-Quds in the Six-Day War of 1967, but the move has never been recognized by the international community.
Meanwhile, an Israeli official said on Friday that Tel Aviv would reveal plans to build 1,400 settler units in the occupied West
Bank after releasing a group of Palestinian prisoners. The official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the plans would be announced next week after the release of two dozen Palestinians from Israeli jails.
About 600 units would be built in the illegal settlement of Ramat, while another 800 would be constructed in other settlements of the occupied West Bank, the official said.
The presence and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories 46 years ago.
The United Nations and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbids construction on occupied lands.