Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the new government set to be sworn in on Sunday in Israel should apply Israeli sovereignty over the Israeli settlements, illegal under international law, in the occupied West Bank.
His comments came as he presented the government, agreed to with former rival Benny Gantz, to Israel’s parliament.
“It’s time to apply the Israeli law and write another glorious chapter in the history of Zionism,” Netanyahu told the Knesset said on the issue of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.
“These territories are where the Jewish nation was born and grew,” he said of the settlements.
For his part, Gantz, a former military chief, made no mention of any possible annexation moves in his ensuing speech.
The two former rivals agreed to a three-year coalition government last month, after more than 500 days of political deadlock and three inconclusive elections in less than a year. Under the power-sharing agreement, Netanyahu will serve 18 months as prime minister and then hand over to Gantz.
The agenda of the new government includes a possible declaration of sovereignty over Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank – a de facto annexation.
Such a move will likely cause international uproar and inflame tensions in the West Bank.
Palestinian leaders have threatened to abolish bilateral agreements with Israel if it goes ahead with the plan to annex parts of the West Bank – land they want as part of a future state – as early as July 1.
Jordan’s King Abdulla II, meanwhile, warned Israel of a “massive conflict” if it went ahead with the plan, while the European Union’s foreign policy chief said the bloc would use “all our diplomatic capacities” to try to dissuade the new government from going ahead with the move, approved under United States President Donald Trump’s so-called Middle East plan.
Israel’s new government was challenged in the Supreme Court, with opponents arguing Netanyahu was ineligible to rule due to a number of corruption indictments. They also complained that certain provisions in the coalition deal broke the law.
But the court ruled earlier this month that “there was no legal reason to prevent the formation of a government” led by Netanyahu, who denies the corruption allegations.
It added that by approving the coalition it “was not seeking to diminish the severity of the charges” against Netanyahu, but concluded that those could be handled in his trial, which is due to begin on May 24.
While Israeli law bars ministers from serving while under indictment, there is no such law for prime ministers.
Al Jazeera and news agencies