Netanyahu's rival steps into illegal settlement minefield

Postado Fevereiro 11, 2019

Former military chief Benny Gantz has burst onto Israel's political scene as the great hope of the country's shrinking "peace camp" with a message that is anything but dovish. United States envoys have spoken of both sides in the conflict needing to compromise.

"We need to find a way in which we're not controlling other people", he said.

Gantz, whose new Resilience party is gaining ground against Netanyahu's Likud with as many as 24 projected seats, has said he wanted to strengthen settlement blocs in the West Bank.

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. Critics of the Gaza move highlight that the Palestinian enclave immediately became a launching pad for rockets targeting Israel and two years later was conquered by Hamas in an internecine war against Abbas' Fatah faction.

"It's encouraging, if he succeeds and he sticks to this opinion", Abu Rudeineh told Reuters.

On the heels of the Likud primary vote on Tuesday which placed him in the 5th spot on the party's list for the upcoming parliamentary ballot, Gideon Sa'ar - a former interior and education minister who is returning after taking a break from public life - has come away as the most popular name in a poll on whom Israelis wish to see as the successor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the next Likud leader.

In an abridged version of the interview published by Ynet and conducted by famed Israeli singer-songwriter Shlomot Artzi and comedian Hanoch Daum, Gantz added that "we have to take its lessons and implement them in other places", suggesting that he would implement additional forcible evictions of Jews under his leadership.

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

All Israeli settlements are considered illegal under global law but Israel draws a distinction between those it sanctions and those it does not. Israel disputes this, citing historical ties to the land, and has expanded the settlement population steadily, including during the past decade under Netanyahu.

The Trump administration has not explicitly endorsed Palestinian statehood. The last peace talks collapsed in 2014, in part over the issue of settlements, and Abbas is boycotting the Trump administration, accusing it of being biased toward Israel.