Israel intends to legalize the town of Mevo’ot Yericho in the Jordan Valley, Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Wednesday, a day after he pledged to annex the area if reelected.
“On Sunday I intend to take another step and bring for government decision Mevo’ot Yericho,” said Netanyahu, referring to the next Cabinet meeting. Mevo’ot Yericho is a small town of about 200 outside of the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Yericho, in the Jordan Valley area on Israel’s eastern border with Jordan.
“It is the next step towards applying sovereignty. It’s the right thing to do and that’s what needs to be done, and that’s what the people want us to do. But the people can only express their opinion if they come to the polls en masse and vote Likud,” he said.
Legalization of the town came amid an onslaught of condemnations of Netanyahu’s pledge to annex much of Yehudah and Shomron — from the Palestinians, the Arab world and Europe, who said it violated international law and would undermine the peace process.
Speaking at the Knesset on Wednesday about his annexation speech, Netanyahu mocked criticism that he had not taken such a step during the 13 years he has spent serving as prime minister.
“Those who ask why we didn’t annex it before don’t understand how it works,” he said. “I have been working for years on softening hearts. It is a gradual process. That is why I told the U.S. over the past few days about my decision.”
A U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday that the prime minister had informed Washington in advance of the speech. While the official did not say the U.S. endorsed the plan, he remarked that it seemed consistent with statements made about the future of Yehudah and Shomron by Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.