19 Jan 2013

Netanyahu vows no settlements will be removed

6:01 pm on 19 January 2013

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says no Jewish settlements in the West Bank will be removed if he wins another term in office in Tuesday's election.

"The days when bulldozers uprooted Jews are behind us, not in front of us," he told Maariv, a newspaper.

Polls predict Mr Netanyahu will comfortably win the election.

About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since Israel occupied the area in 1967.

The UN considers the settlements are illegal, although Israel disputes that.

Asked if he could promise no settlements would be dismantled during the next four years, Mr Netanyahu replied: "Yes."

"We haven't uprooted any settlements, we have expanded them," he added. "Nobody has any lessons to give me about love for the Land of Israel or commitment to Zionism and the settlements."

Record level of approvals

A report this week by the Peace Now group says tenders and approvals for construction in East Jerusalem have reached record levels under Mr Netanyahu's government, the BBC reports.

The report also says isolated settlements accounted for nearly 40% of all new constructions, nearly double that of previous years.

Palestinians insist all settlements must be removed from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where they want to establish a future state.

Peace talks broke down over the issue of settlements in 2010 and Palestinians have refused to resume negotiations unless Israel freezes settlement building first.