Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that if re-elected, he would annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
In an interview Saturday with Israeli Channel 12 News, Netanyahu said Israel would “go to the next stage” and retain control of the West Bank, imposing Israeli sovereignty without uprooting existing settlements.
“I will give sovereignty, but I don’t differentiate between the settlement blocs and the isolated settlements, because 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,” he said.
“If we have learned anything,” Netanyahu continued, “it is that when we abandon territories, Islamic extremism emerges immediately and slaughters us, and I won’t give them the heart of the state of Israel.”
Netanyahu’s comments appealed to small far-right parties and hardline voters, who object to ceding lands to the Palestinians.
Settlements are one of the most heated issues in efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, frozen since 2014.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rdainah, told Reuters news agency that “any measures and any announcements will not change the facts. Settlements are illegal and they will be removed.”
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, all captured by Israel in 1967. Since then, Israel has annexed east Jerusalem, but withdrawn from Gaza. The West Bank remains under Israeli military occupation with limited Palestinian self-rule.