Israeli parliamentary committee approves bill to annex part of West Bank

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Knesset committee gave preliminary approval to a proposed bill to annex the West Bank’s Jordan Valley to Israel.

The bill would apply Israeli law to the eastern part of the West Bank, which currently is considered captured territory. A similar bill annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. The proposed law is designed to prevent an Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley if and when a peace deal with the Palestinians is achieved.

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation gave its OK to the bill Sunday by a vote of 8 to 3, sending it to the full Knesset for consideration. The bill was proposed by Miri Regev of the Likud Party and is opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several key Knesset leaders, including Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

Israel has called for leaving troops in the Jordan Valley under any peace agreement; Palestinian negotiators have said the area should be completely free of Israelis and Israeli troops.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the bill would destroy efforts to advance the peace process, Ynet reported.

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