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Saturday, January 19, 2013
From Print Edition


OCCUPIED-AL-QUDS: With just four days until elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a last-minute pitch for votes on Friday with a promise that not a single illegal Jewish settlement will be removed if he is re-elected.


With opinion polls showing growing support for the hardline pro-settler Jewish Home party of Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu talked up his own pro-settlement credentials in two newspaper interviews.


Asked by the Maariv daily if he could guarantee that, if re-elected, he would not demolish any Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, Netanyahu said: “Yes, correct. The days of bulldozers uprooting Jews are behind us, not ahead of us.”


“We haven’t evicted one settlement. We have strengthened the settlement enterprise,” he said in what was widely seen as remarks aimed at stemming the flow of votes to Bennett, whose party opposes a Palestinian state and champions accelerated settlement construction.


Asked if he still supported the concept of a Palestinian state, which he endorsed for the first time in June 2009, Netanyahu was non-committal. “Nobody wants a bi-national state,” he said.


“I am realistic. The Palestinians are posing entry conditions for commencing negotiations that we cannot accept.


“Their entry conditions are unacceptable to me, and my conditions for concluding the negotiations are unacceptable to them,” he said. Peace talks have been frozen for more than two years, and the Palestinians say they will not re-enter negotiations while Israel continues building on land they want for a future state.