Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to supporters Monday during a campaign stop at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
April 8 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doubled down Monday on his pledge to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank, one day before national elections settle what looks to be a tight race.
Netanyahu spent Monday touring Jerusalem, rallying supporters and appealing to undecided voters in the city. Tuesday, Netanyahu will square off with chief rival Benny Gantz, who's been polling close to the prime minister in recent weeks. Settlements in the West Bank has been one of the larger campaign issues.
Netanyahu said Monday he's met with senior officials in the Trump administration to discuss an annexation.
"I prefer to do this [annex] with agreement," he said. "I discussed this with representatives of President Trump and I told them, in my opinion, there is no way around it, and I think it is also the right thing to do. But it is going to happen. This isn't something I cooked up for the elections."
Blue and White Party candidate Gantz called Netanyahu's pledge a "meaningless statement" to get support from right-wing voters.
"It's a shame to play with people like that," he said.
Netanyahu said Israel has come a long way in establishing settlements in the towns of Judea and Sumaria.
"We moved on to the stage of expanded construction, and now we'll move to the next stage, that is, applying sovereignty to [Israeli] towns," Netanyahu said. "That's all I said. I prefer to do this in stage, with American support."
During his speech Monday in the historic Mahaneh Yehuda market, Netanyahu also said Gantz's party is neck-and-neck in the polls with his.