JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he plans to annex part of the occupied West Bank if he wins reelection next week, a move that could significantly alter the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu said in a live televised address Tuesday he intends to "apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea," a strategically important area, if he is victorious on September 17.
Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi tweeted that annexation would destroy any chance of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.
"Netanyahu's cheap pandering to his extremist racist base exposes his real political agenda of superimposing 'greater Israel' on all of historical Palestine & carrying out an ethnic cleansing agenda. All bets are off! Dangerous aggression. Perpetual conflict."
Anticipating Netanyahu's announcement shortly before it was made, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the Israeli leader is "a prime destroyer of the peace process."
Netanyahu's announcement reaffirms his pledge to annex all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but has said he would not act before publication of a long-awaited U.S. peace proposal and consultations with President Donald Trump.
There was no immediate comment from the White House, but the Trump administration has been receptive to Israel's annexation of at least portions of the West Bank.
The Jordan Valley is a 2,400-square-kilometer area that accounts for nearly 30 percent of the territory in the West Bank, which Israel captured in a 1967 war. The Palestinians covet the valley for the eastern perimeter of a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The embattled Netanyahu is in the midst of a closely-contested reelection bid. Polls show he is even or slightly behind Benny Gantz, a moderate former army chief of staff.
The prime minister is also facing a series of corruption charges.
More than 400,000 Israeli's live in West Bank settlements considered illegal by international law. Some 2.7 million Palestinians live in the territory.