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Netanyahu promises U.S. recognition of Israeli settlements


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to deliver U.S. recognition of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jordan Valley if his party secures a majority in national elections slated for March.

He made the pledge Thursday in a victory speech after winning the primary contest for leadership of his political party.
Netanyahu, who is under indictment for charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, touted his relationship with the U.S. and President Trump while celebrating victory in retaining leadership over the Likud political party.

"In the years ahead we will deliver more achievements that could have only been dreamed of," Netanyahu said in his speech, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“We will set our final borders, bring about American recognition for Israeli control over Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea and our sovereignty over every settlement in Judea and Samaria," he said, using the biblical terms to refer to the West Bank.

About 500,000 Israelis live in communities in the West Bank that most of the international community considers illegal under international law.

In November, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the U.S. would reverse an opinion of the Obama administration that viewed those Israeli settlements as illegal under international law, with critics saying Pompeo's move set the stage for unilateral Israeli annexation that threatens any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu also promised to "obtain a defense pact with U.S. that will ensure Israeli freedom to act. We will defeat Iran and achieve a peace pact with Arab countries." 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has long championed securing a mutual defense treaty between the U.S. and Israel.

Netanyahu's victory in his party primary sets him up for a third confrontation in national elections against the leading opposition Blue and White party, headed by former Israeli Defense Forces Gen. Benny Gantz.

Indecisive results in two earlier elections found both parties unable to secure a majority to form a ruling government.

Netanyahu had earlier touted plans to annex the West Bank and Jordan Valley in a push for support among Israeli voters.

Trump has delivered key wins for Netanyahu over the past two years, including moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Syria claims as occupied.

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