Published: Mon, February 11, 2019

Netanyahu rival speaks of possible West Bank withdrawal

Netanyahu rival speaks of possible West Bank withdrawal

The Likud's closest challenger is the Israel Resilience party, headed by former military chief Benny Gantz.

The prime minister would win 32 seats in the 120-seat Israeli parliament, according to a poll released by Kan public broadcasting.


With both a general election and the unveiling of a US peace initiative on the horizon, the centrist candidate, Benny Gantz, has been signaling an openness to territorial compromise in the occupied West Bank.

In an interview on Wednesday with Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Gantz was asked about prospects for accommodation with the Palestinians, who seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main rival in an April election has raised the possibility of pulling back from the occupied West Bank, in remarks published Wednesday that drew right-wing criticism but were welcomed by the Palestinians.

The majority of polls predict a victory of the ruling Likud party with a lead of several seats over Gantz's Israel Resilience Party.

The Palestinians responded by reiterating their position that the settlements are an obstacle to their statehood goal and should be removed unless annexed by Israel under negotiated territorial exchanges.

Most world powers consider Jewish settlements on land captured in a 1967 war to be illegal under the Geneva conventions.

"It is encouraging if he succeeds and he sticks to this opinion", Nabil Abu Rudeinah told journalists in Ramallah. The proposed handover to Abbas' regime of security control over the entire West Bank-which by most accounts would necessitate removing tens of thousands of Israelis living therein-is even more divisive, with many arguing this would result in a Hamas takeover of areas adjacent to critical Israeli infrastructure and major population centers.

In a statement, Likud accused Gantz of planning to form a "leftist government" with the help of Israeli Arab parties that have pro-Palestinian sympathies.

Mr Gantz's party later put out a clarification saying "no unilateral decisions will be made on settlement evacuation".

In a statement, Gantz's party said that, unlike the 2005 Gaza withdrawal, the former armed forces chief did not foresee any unilateral pullout from West Bank settlements.

The Trump administration has not explicitly endorsed Palestinian statehood.

The last peace talks collapsed in 2014, in part over the issue of settlements.

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