JERUSALEM  -  Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has pledged to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories if he wins his country’s election on Tuesday, a dramatic last-minute rallying call to his nationalist base.

In interviews with domestic media ahead of the polls, Netanyahu repeated his promise and said he would prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state by “controlling the entire area”.

Hundreds of thousands of settlers live in outposts in the West Bank , which Israel’s military captured in a war more than half a century ago and continues to rule, controlling the lives of more than 2.5 million Palestinians.

World powers consider the settlements illegal under international law, built on land confiscated from Palestinian families and squeezing them into ever-smaller enclaves. Formally declaring the settlements part of Israel would also be seen as putting an end to fading hopes for a Palestinian state, as there would be little continuous land on which to create it.

Netanyahu is facing a tight race for re-election. Recent polls have shown his rightwing Likud party just behind the Blue and White party, run by a former Israeli army chief Benny Gantz. However, with support from smaller pro-settlement, far-right and ultranationalist parties, Netanyahu would have a better chance of forming a coalition government.

During Israel’s last election, in 2015, Netanyahu was criticised for a poll-day statement, seen as incendiary and racist, to rally rightwing supporters by warning that Arab citizens in Israel were “heading to the polling stations in droves”. Without certain victory in sight this year, many had been waiting for a similar stunt.

On Saturday night, Netanyahu gave an interview to Israel’s Channel 12 TV. He pledged not to dismantle a single Jewish settlement, of which there are more than 100, from makeshift trailer parks on hilltops to huge townships indistinguishable from towns in Israel.

The interviewer asked why he had not already annexed some of the larger settlements. “Who says that we won’t do it? We are on the way and we are discussing it,” he replied. “You are asking whether we are moving on to the next stage – the answer is yes, we will move to the next stage. I am going to extend sovereignty and I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements.

“From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians.”

A so-called two-state solution, which envisions an Israel and a Palestine side by side, has long been the preferred peace option of most of the international community. But growing settlement construction has dashed hopes.

In a separate interview on Sunday, Netanyahu boosted about adding new housing units into settlements. “We’re going to continue controlling the entire territory west of the Jordan (river),” he said, in reference to the occupied West Bank . Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital early in his term as US president further damaged the two-state ideal. The Palestinians see the occupied eastern section of Jerusalem as the capital of any future state, and cut contact with Washington after the declaration.