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Netanyahu: Annex W.Bank Settlements    09/16 06:13

   JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Monday to 
annex "all the settlements" in the West Bank, including an enclave deep in the 
heart of the largest Palestinian city, in a last-ditch move that appeared aimed 
at shoring up nationalist support the day before a do-over election.

   Locked in a razor tight race and with legal woes hanging over him, Netanyahu 
is fighting for his political survival. In the final weeks of his campaign he 
has been doling out hard-line promises meant to draw more voters to his Likud 
party and re-elect him in Tuesday's unprecedented repeat vote.

   "I intend to extend sovereignty on all the settlements and the (settlement) 
blocs," including "sites that have security importance or are important to 
Israel's heritage," Netanyahu said in an interview with Israeli Army Radio, 
part of an eleventh-hour media blitz.

   Asked if that included the hundreds of Jews who live under heavy military 
guard amid tens of thousands of Palestinians in the volatile city of Hebron, 
Netanyahu responded "of course."

   Israelis head to the polls Tuesday in the second election this year, after 
Netanyahu failed to cobble together a coalition following April's vote, 
sparking the dissolution of parliament.

   Netanyahu has made a series of ambitious pledges in a bid to whip up 
support, including a promise to annex the Jordan Valley, an area even moderate 
Israelis view as strategic but which the Palestinians consider the breadbasket 
of any future state.

   Critics contend that Netanyahu's pledges, if carried out, would enflame the 
Middle East and eliminate any remaining Palestinian hope of establishing a 
separate state. His political rivals have dismissed his talk of annexation as 
an election ploy noting that he has refrained from annexing any territory 
during his more than a decade in power.

   Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war.

   Over 2.5 million Palestinians now live in occupied territories, in addition 
to nearly 700,000 Jewish settlers. Israel already has annexed east Jerusalem in 
a move that is not internationally recognized. The international community, 
along with the Palestinians, overwhelmingly considers Israeli settlements in 
the West Bank and east Jerusalem illegal.

   Tuesday's vote will largely be a referendum on Netanyahu, who this year 
surpassed Israel's founding prime minister as the country's longest-serving 

   He has cast himself as the only candidate capable of facing Israel's myriad 
challenges. But his opponents say his legal troubles --- including a 
recommendation by the attorney general to indict him on bribery, fraud and 
breach of trust charges --- loom too large for him to carry on.


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