Abbas blasts Netanyahu’s pledge to extend sovereignty over settlements

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman, on Sunday censured a statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he repeated a pledge to apply Israeli sovereignty over settlements in the West Bank.

“This matter is a continuation of the attempts to create an unacceptable status quo that will not lead to peace, security and stability,” the spokesman said in a statement, according to the official PA news site Wafa. “The settlement building policy, attempts to achieve cost-free normalization in violation of the Arab Peace Initiative, and efforts to erode the two state solution are rejected and condemned.”

Addressing elementary school students Sunday morning in the Elkana settlement, Netanyahu echoed a promise he had made days before the last national elections in April: “With the help of God we will apply Jewish sovereignty to all communities, as part of the Land of Israel, and as part of the State of Israel.” A spokesman for the prime minister later clarified that Netanyahu was referring to Jewish communities in the West Bank.

The premier also told the students that no more settlements will be evacuated, as happened in 2005 when the Israeli civilian presence in the Gaza Strip — known collectively as Gush Katif — and parts of the northern West Bank was removed.

Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, also responded to Netanyahu’s comments, urging the international community to take action against Israel.

“Those who claim concern after every Israeli settlement announcement should face reality: Israel’s PM is announcing further annexation of occupied territory,” Erekat tweeted. “Enough impunity: There’s an international responsibility to impose sanctions on Israel after decades of systematic crimes.”

While the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership has said it would support allowing Israel to retain a small portion of the West Bank in a future peace deal in exchange for equally valuable territory in Israel, it has frequently demanded Israel end all settlement building in the area and strongly opposed its talk of applying sovereignty over it.

Hazem Qassim, a spokesman for the Hamas terror group, also took aim at Netanyahu’s statements.

“Our people has made a final decision to expel the occupation from its land,” he asserted in a statement. “All the talk about annexing the West Bank will evaporate in the face of the resistance’s intense fire in the West Bank.”

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has vowed to destroy Israel and its officials have often encouraged attacks against Israelis.

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