Israeli army sends more troops to Jordan Valley
The Israeli army said Tuesday it was beefing up forces in the Jordan Valley, a swathe of the occupied West Bank which would remain under its control according to US President Donald Trump's controversial "Deal of the Century".
"Following the ongoing situation assessment conducted in the IDF (Israel Defence Forces), it has been decided to reinforce the Jordan Valley area with infantry troops," the military said in a statement.
The decision to increase forces along the Jordan Valley comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed his promise to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as part of a nationalist push ahead of the third election campaign in under a year, which kicked off on Tuesday.
Addressing supports of his right-wing Likud Party at a campaign launch event in Jerusalem, Netanyahu vowed to "impose Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea", then promised to annex all Israeli settlements in the West Bank "without exception".
The Israeli premier had previously called for the annexation of the Jordan Valley ahead of last year's repeat parliamentary elections in September, something also pledged by his contender for the post Benny Gantz.
Israel first went to the polls in April last year but two subsequent elections have failed to yield a government coalition.
The Jordan Valley makes up one third of the occupied West Bank and annexing it, like Netanyahu wishes, will destroy the remains of the Oslo Accord and hopes for a two-state solution, which is internationally recognised as a way to end the occupation.
For Palestinians, its fertile lands and moderate climate make it a vital part of a future state. Israeli officials, however, contend the region is crucial to defending the country's eastern flank.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said late last year that the annexation of the Jordan Valley would violate international law.
Most of the international community agrees that existing Israeli settlements in the West Bank also run contrary to international law.
Most of the settlements are in Area C, which makes up around 60 percent of the West Bank.
The annexation of both the Jordan Valley and the more than 200 settlements scattered across the West Bank is widely considered a move that would make a future Palestinian state untenable.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was Tuesday formally charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, the justice ministry said, shortly after the politician dropped his request for parliamentary immunity.
The indictment came as Netanyahu was in Washington for a meeting with President Donald Trump for the unveiling of a controversial US peace plan, which has been condemned by Palestinians.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit presented the charge sheet to the Jerusalem district court, where Netanyahu will face trial for corruption over gifts and favourable media coverage received in return for regulatory and financial benefits.
|Netanyahu met with Trump to discuss the US President's plans [Getty]|
Mandelblit had announced his decision to charge Netanyahu in November and presented the charge sheet publicly but had refrained from the formal move in court "to enable a debate on the prime minister's request for immunity from parliament", his office said.
Hours earlier, Netanyahu issued a statement from Washington announcing he would not seek parliamentary immunity.
"A few minutes ago I informed the Knesset speaker that I'm withdrawing the immunity request," Netanyahu said on Facebook. "I won't let my political opponents use this issue to disturb the historic move I'm leading."
Israel's parliament had been scheduled to vote on Tuesday to convene a committee to rule on the request.
"In this fateful moment for the people of Israel, while I'm in the US on a historic mission to form Israel's final borders and ensure our security for future generations, another immunity circus show is due to open at the Knesset," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu denies the charges against him and says he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.
Netanyahu's trial could even open before March 2, when he will seek re-election in a closely fought vote pitting his right wing Likud against the centrist Blue and White party.