After ICC threat, PM woos Likud with annexation pledge

Sa’ar: I’ll support Netanyahu for president

(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu campaigned for Likud Party votes by promising to annex all West Bank settlements, thereby totally dismissing the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) threat of war crime suits for such activity.
“We are going to bring [secure] US recognition for our sovereignty in the Jordan Valley... [and] in all of the settlements – those in the blocs and those that are beyond it,” Netanyahu said in a video he published Monday on YouTube.
“That is the next stage. It is in my hands, and only I can accomplish this. Therefore I need you to vote for me,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister is battling for the heart of the Likud in advance of Thursday’s primaries against Likud politician Gideon Sa’ar.
Sa’ar traveled to Hebron on Monday, a place that Netanyahu visited for his first time as premier only during this last year of campaigning. Sa’ar stopped at the Tomb of the Patriarchs there, lighting candles to mark the second night of Hanukkah.
Sa’ar has been very strong on right-wing issues relating to the settlements. In Hebron he promised to support Jewish growth in the city. As education minister, he created a program to send Israeli students to visit the city.
Netanyahu hit back by putting out a video telling Likud voters that only he has the power to annex West Bank settlements – an issue he never spoke about until the election campaigns began last year.
In his video, he dismisses the threat of an ICC war crimes suit against Israel over the issue of settlement activity, by way of showing that he has no problem annexing the settlements even if threatened with a war crimes suit.
In an opinion published by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Friday, she warned that she believed settlement activity met the criteria for war crimes.
In his video, Netanyahu touted his past diplomatic successes, particularly with the Trump administration, taking responsibility for US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and for Golan Heights sovereignty. He also took credit for the US statement last month that West Bank settlements are legal under international law.
The Likud decided separately on Monday that Thursday’s primaries would be limited solely to the question of the prime ministerial race.
The party will run the same list of candidates for the March 2 election as it did in the September and April races, an internal Likud court decided on Monday.
The court overturned a decision by a court with fewer judges last Thursday to require a new primary to elect a new list. Among the reasons for not holding the primary is that there would not be enough time ahead of the January 15 deadline for parties to submit their lists to the Central Elections Committee.
The Likud judges asked if the deadline to submit the party’s list could be extended.
The request to cancel the primary was made by Likud MKs Kati Shitrit, Shlomo Karhi and Keren Barak. Among those who petitioned the court to be permitted to run was former Jerusalem city councilman Yair Gabai, who argued that there was enough time for the race.
Had the Likud had a primary, taxpayers would have had to pay for the campaigns of the incumbent MKs, according to a new law passed last year sponsored by MK David Amsalem.
There will still be a Likud leadership race on Thursday. Voting hours for the race were extended because of a weather forecast predicting a 90% chance of rain.
Netanyahu campaigned on Monday in Rosh Ha’ayin, Herzliya and Ariel, while Sa’ar visited Hebron and Netanya.
Sa’ar told the crowd in Netanya that if elected, he would help Netanyahu run for president when Reuven Rivlin’s term ends in two years.