An Israeli ministerial team cancelled a scheduled meeting to discuss plans for annexing the Jordan Valley following a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes against Palestinians, Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The meeting had been scheduled to take place last week, but was called off last minute once ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced intention on Friday to investigate alleged Israeli human rights violations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
During his election campaign in September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank if he was re-elected.
"Because of the prosecutor’s decision in the Hague, the issue of the Jordan Valley annexation will be put on a long hold,” an Israeli government source told Yedioth Ahronoth.
In her recommendation, Bensouda said Israel has not only failed to stop settlement building in the West Bank, the Jewish state also intends to annex some parts of the territory.
Israeli sources said Bensouda's decision would lead to a "deep freeze" of the annexation of the Jordan Valley.
Roughly 70,000 Palestinians -- along with some 9,500 Jewish settlers -- currently live in the Jordan Valley, a large, fertile strip of land that accounts for roughly one-quarter of the West Bank’s overall territory.
Israel claims that the Jordan Valley is vital to its security and has consistently rejected the notion of relinquishing any part of it in any future settlement with the Palestinians.
Some 650,000 Israeli Jews currently live in more than 100 settlements built since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians want these territories -- along with the Gaza Strip -- for the establishment of a future Palestinian state.
International law views both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as "occupied territories" and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there as illegal.
* Bassel Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara