Netanyahu vows he won’t demolish settlements in next term

If reelected, PM promises ‘the days of bulldozers uprooting Jews are behind us,’ but says he doesn’t want to rule the Palestinians

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Adopting a hard-line stance ahead of the elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a Friday interview promised that, if reelected, he would not uproot West Bank settlements in the coming four years.

Speaking in an interview with Maariv, Netanyahu said his track record testifies to the fact that he his government had strengthened, not dismantled, settlements, and established the Ariel University in the West Bank as a full-fledged academic institution.

Earlier this week, Peace Now reported that 2012 was a record year for settlement construction; hours later, the Construction and Housing Ministry announced tenders for 198 housing units for Jews in the West Bank.

When asked whether he could guarantee that he would not uproot settlements in the coming four years of a future administration, Netanyahu responded in the affirmative, saying “the days of bulldozers uprooting Jews are behind us, not before us.”

Netanyahu added in a Friday interview on Channel 1 that, contrary to the contentions of Palestinian and international leaders, he does not regard settlements to be the root of the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians.

“I don’t believe that settlements are the root of the conflict, I don’t believe that territorial dimensions are the root of the conflict,” he said. “The root of the conflict was and remains the refusal to recognize the Jewish state within any border.”

Maariv asked Netanyahu whether he, like members of his party, reneged on his willingness to negotiate a Palestinian state “as a result of the developments in recent years,” referring to the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral move for international recognition as a nonmember state at the United Nations. The prime minister responded that he is a realist and that neither he nor PA President Mahmoud Abbas accepts the other’s preconditions to negotiations, nor the final terms of a deal.

“That’s the true reality. Everyone understands this,” he said.

Nonetheless, the prime minister also told Maariv that, in contrast to his rival, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, he is not against a Palestinian state and is opposed to a single, bi-national state.

Bennett has advocated annexing Area C, the fully Israeli-administered 60% portion of the West Bank, and offering Israeli citizenship to the 50,000 or so Palestinians residing therein. And in an meeting with US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro on Wednesday, Bennett reportedly said, according to Channel 10, that “there is no chance that the projected Netanyahu government will go for any sort of agreement with the Palestinians.”

“No one wants a bi-national state,” Netanyahu said. “I do not want to include a million and a half or two million Palestinian Arabs within the state of Israel. There are things that we have in common with other parties, but regarding this issue my position is clear.”

Earlier in the week, Netanyahu said in an interview with Channel 2 that “any territory that we evacuate will be captured by Iran,” and that “the stronger we are, the more we will be able to guarantee our future and make peace with our neighbors.”

“We need to reach a solution,” he told Channel 1 on Friday. “I don’t want to rule the Palestinians and I don’t want them to rule us and threaten our existence.”

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