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Erekat condemns Israel's bill to annex Jordan Valley

Dec. 29, 2013 7:10 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 1, 2014 12:07 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A chief Palestinian official on Sunday condemned an Israeli committee vote in favor of a Knesset bill that would annex the Jordan Valley, placing it under full Israeli sovereignty.

Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said the decision destroys all efforts for peace with Israel, showing the Israeli government's "indifference" toward international law.

In an interview with Ma'an, Erekat said the Palestinian response should be to seek statehood recognition by the United Nations and other international bodies.

He called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for such a decision.

Israel's Channel Seven reported Sunday that the Ministerial Committee on Legislation voted in favor of a bill that would annex the entirety of the Jordan Valley.

Four ministers approved it and three opposed it, the report said.

Among those opposing it was Tzipi Livni, Israel's minister of justice, who appealed the vote.

"The government is tying its hands and the hands of the prime minister," Livni said, according to the Israeli news site Ynet.

"A profound debate must be held on such issues. You can't ratify such populist proposals ... which cause great damage to the State of Israel and render it isolated in the world."

Livni is charged with overseeing the current round of peace talks with the Palestinians.

The majority of the Jordan Valley is under full Israeli military control, despite being within the Palestinian West Bank.

Over 94 percent of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea area is prohibited for Palestinian use, with the land either declared a closed military zone or reserved for illegal Israeli settlements.

Israel has always insisted that a continued military presence on the frontier would be vital for its security for some 10-15 years after Palestinian statehood.

Palestinians reject the idea of an Israeli military presence, but have said an international peacekeeping force would be acceptable.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
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