Netanyahu vows no razing of settlements if elected

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Friday that there would be no dismantlement of any Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins a general election next week.

Asked in an interview with the Maariv newspaper: “Can you promise that during the next four years, no settlement will be dismantled?” Netanyahu answered: “Yes.”

“The days when bulldozers uprooted Jews are behind us, not in front of us. Our record proves it,” he said.

“We haven’t uprooted any settlements, we have expanded them,” he said, recalling that his government had established the first university in a settlement, in Ariel deep in the West Bank.

“Nobody has any lessons to give me about love for the Land of Israel or commitment to Zionism and the settlements,” he added.

Netanyahu was alluding to the strong opinion poll showing of the pro-settler Jewish Home party which has been championing accelerated settlement expansion and looks set to take seats from the prime minister’s rightwing list in Tuesday’s election.

Public radio commentator Hanan Cristal said Netanyahu had, “in the final stretch of the election campaign, steered to the right on the question of settlements to try to woo Likud supporters tempted to vote for Jewish Home.”

Likud is the premier’s party.

Opinion polls on Friday, the last day they may be published before the election, showed the Likud-Yisrael Beitenu list winning 32-35 seats in the 120-member Knesset, down from 42 in the outgoing parliament.

Jewish Home was credited with 13-14, and the ultra-Orthodox Shas party 11-12.

The center-left Labor party would win 16-17 seats and the centrist Yesh Atid and HaTnuah, 10-13 and 7-8, respectively.

A poll published on January 11 showed that one in four voters had still not decided whom to back.