THE AGE: “Settlements stay, vows Netanyahu” by Robert Tait, 20Jan13 January 20, 2013

by Robert Tait    -    The Age    -    20 January 2013

Benjamin Netanyahu has delivered his most uncompromising rebuff yet to international pressure for a peace deal with the Palestinians by promising not to dismantle a single Jewish settlement if re-elected as Israel’s prime minister.

With polls showing him losing support to hardline pro-settler parties before Tuesday’s general election, Mr Netanyahu said he would not emulate previous Israeli governments by abandoning settlements in exchange for peace.

Asked by the newspaper Maariv to guarantee that his next government would not demolish settlements, he said: ”Yes. Correct. The days of bulldozers flattening settlements is behind us, not in front of us.”

He also rejected US and European pressure to cease building in east Jerusalem and the West Bank on land the Palestinians want for a future state. ”The freezing of settlements has run its course,”he said.


The pledges were driven by opinion surveys showing the pro-settler Jewish Home party, led by Naftali Bennett, continuing to drain support from Mr Netanyahu’s Likud Beiteinu bloc, jeopardising the prime minister’s chances of forming a balanced, centre-based coalition.

Mr Bennett, a 40-year-old reservist with an elite commando unit, has wooed settlers by saying his conscience would prevent him from obeying orders to evict Jews from ancient biblical lands in the West Bank.

Refusing to freeze settlements amounted to a further snub to the administration of Barack Obama and the European Union, which have condemned a recent wave of announcements to build more than 6000 homes on occupied Palestinian territory as a potential death blow to a two-state solution.

Peace negotiations have been stalled since 2010 after Mr Netanyahu refused to bow to demands from the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, that settlement building be halted as a condition for resumed talks.

However, Mr Netanyahu dismissed claims that the issue was derailing the peace process and insisted that the Palestinian reluctance to return to negotiations stemmed from an unwillingness to accept Israel’s existence.

”We proved that the Palestinians are not interested and the settlement issue is largely a deception. The settlement issue is a result of the conflict, not the reason for the conflict,” he said.

”When Israel unilaterally retreated from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians continued showering Israel with missiles.

”They made it clear that their aim was not the liberation of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] but the liberation of Ashdod and Beer Sheva [towns is Israel].

”That is the true Palestine. They are not willing to put an end to the conflict and not willing to acknowledge the Jewish state.”

Mr Netanyahu acknowledged in a separate interview with The Jerusalem Post that he and the US President disagreed about how to reach peace but dismissed warnings that his policies risked losing Israel the support of the US.

Telegraph, London

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