Benjamin Netanyahu Won't Move 'Even One' Settler For US Peace Plan

Benjamin Netanyahu Won't Move 'Even One' Settler For US Peace Plan

More than 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements as part of Israel's military occupation of the territory, where more than 2.5 million Palestinians live.

Settlements built on land occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War are deemed illegal by the global community and their ongoing construction is seen as a major barrier to peace in the Middle East. Our correspondent Mona Kandil has the details form Ramallah.

52 percent of Israelis surveyed said they thought Netanyahu would be the next prime minister, while 27 percent said it would be Gantz.

Netanyahu said he informed Trump not "even one person" would be evicted from a settlement.

Saeb Erekat, secretary of the PLO's executive committee, told Arab News: "Such a statement by Netanyahu is not surprising".

And if Netanyahu wins reelection to his fourth consecutive term on Tuesday, and with Trump's blessing, goes forward with annexing the West Bank settlements, the two-state solution will nearly certainly be dead for good.

When asked if he would push through before Tuesday the much-delayed evacuation of Palestinians living in Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village near the Maale Adumim settlement bloc, he reiterated his opposition to a Palestinian state on the West Bank. However, the Trump administration has repeatedly challenged this, when it first recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved its embassy there.

On Saturday, Netanyahu boasted that Trump's recognition of Israel's claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights region - itself an unprecedented break with decades of USA policy - was proof that the US would back him and the West Bank annexation. But Israel has so far stopped short of formally annexing the West Bank, leaving the door open for further negotiations with Palestinians.

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Most world nations consider the West Bank, as well as other territories seized by Israel following the 1967 war, occupied.

He also told Trump that any USA reconciliation plan for Israel and Palestine must not include the removal of the settlements from the occupied Palestinian lands.

Netanyahu has promoted Jewish settlement expansion in his four terms as prime minister, but until now, withheld from presenting a detailed vision for the West Bank.

No prime minister has withstood such pressure.

Netanyahu stepped up his rhetoric ahead of the Israeli parliamentary elections scheduled for Tuesday, April 9.

The main challenger to Netanyahu in Israel's elections on Sunday condemned the premier's deeply controversial pledge to annex West Bank settlements, calling it an "irresponsible" bid for votes. "Israel will continue to brazenly violate global law for as long as the worldwide community will continue to reward Israel with impunity, particularly with the Trump administration's support and endorsement of Israel's violation of the national and human rights of the people of Palestine".

But Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the New Right party and author of a plan to annex parts of the West Bank, suggested Netanyahu was simply trawling for votes. "Actually it is doing more of the wrong things by suffocating Palestinians", the Jordanian minister said, referring to the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.

Trump's predecessors as president publicly discouraged the expansion of settlements, arguing that they made it harder to negotiate a viable Palestinian state, viewed by administrations from both USA parties as Israel's likeliest route to peace.

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