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Great Britain

Netanyahu vows to annex settlements as Israel heads to polls

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he plans to annex West Bank settlements in Hebron, the largest Palestinian city, if he is returned to power in today’s general election.

In the final hours of his election campaign, the Likud leader told Israeli Army Radio that he plans to annex “all the settlements” in the West Bank, including Hebron and Kiryat Arba.

His controversial pledge was given short shrift by Palestinians. “The Jordan Valley is part of Palestinian lands and any settlement or annexation is illegal,” said the Palestinian Authority’s Mohammed Shtayyeh.

“We will sue Israel in international courts for exploiting our land and we will continue our struggle against the occupation on the ground and in international forums.”

Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation told Al Jazeera that Netanyahu is pandering to his “extreme right-wing racist base” and that, due to the presence of Donald Trump in the White House, Israel no longer needed to “fly below the radar” with such strategies.

Israelis are heading to the polls for the second time this year after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition following April's vote, causing the dissolution of parliament.

The prime minister is beset by legal problems, including a recommendation by the attorney general to indict him on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges. Fox News says that the right-winger is “locked in a tight race” with “legal woes hanging over him” and “fighting for his political survival”. The most recent polls suggest that after the election, Netanyahu will not have a majority, The Times says.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz says Netanyahu’s Likud party has recorded messages to be sent out today to hundreds of thousands of voters’ phones warning them of very high voter turnout among Arab communities.

The message, scheduled to be sent out at 4:30pm, will say: “According to the information we have, the voter turnout in the Arab community is very high and also in the left-wing strongholds who want to replace right-wing rule.”

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