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Netanyahu promises Trump's backing for Israeli sovereignty over settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a podium
Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promising supporters that he will convince President Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and all settlements on the West Bank if he wins Thursday's primary to lead the Likud Party.

Why it matters: Israel's embattled prime minister is facing his first serious challenge from within his party in over a decade. In a video published on social media accounts, he's trying to mobilize support among hardline party members from the settlements.

  • His opponent Gideon Sa’ar led a hardline right-wing campaign and attacked Netanyahu for being soft on the Palestinians and for not implementing his promises for annexation and expanding settlements.

What he's saying: “The same way I got Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights and the American statement that the settlements doesn’t contradict international law…I am going to do something more — I am going to bring U.S. recognition in our sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and in all the settlements — this is the next stage — and only I can get this,” Netanyahu says in the video.

The catch: Several days before the September elections, Netanyahu announced he would annex the Jordan Valley and all the settlements in the West Bank if elected, but he failed to form a government.

  • When a scenario of a third election became real he said publicly that he had discussed his annexation plan with President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, giving the impression he had Trump and Pompeo’s support.
  • The State Department denied Pompeo had ever discussed the issue with Netanyahu.

What they're not saying: The White House never confirmed Trump discussed the issue with Netanyahu.

  • White House officials were careful not to publicly deny Netanyahu’s claims and haven’t publicly stated their position was on Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, in order not to get dragged into the Israeli election campaign.
  • But sources who spoke to White House officials got the impression they were not happy with Netanyahu’s annexation comments and his insinuations that Trump supported it.

Go deeper: Israel heads for third elections with Netanyahu weakened by indictments