Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, trailing in opinion polls, told Israeli voters on Monday that a Palestinian state will not be established if he is reelected and promised that he would build thousands of settler homes in Arab east Jerusalem.
In an interview published Monday, Netanyahu told the daily Maariv newspaper that withdrawing from occupied areas to make way for a Palestinian state would only ensure that territory will be taken over by Islamic extremists. When asked if that means a Palestinian state will not be established if he is elected, Netanyahu said “indeed.”
In a separate occasion, while speaking on a whistle-stop tour of Har Homa, a contentious settlement neighborhood of annexed east Jerusalem, Netanyahu vowed he would never allow the Palestinians to establish a capital in the city's eastern sector.
“I won't let that happen. My friends and I in Likud will preserve the unity of Jerusalem,” he said of his ruling rightwing party, vowing to prevent any future division of the city by building thousands of new settler homes.
“We will continue to build in Jerusalem, we will add thousands of housing units, and in the face of all the (international) pressure, we will persist and continue to develop our eternal capital,” he added.
Israel seized Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
The Jewish state refers to both halves of the city as its “united, undivided capital” and does not see construction in the eastern sector as settlement building.
Successive Israeli leaders have vowed that Jerusalem will never again be divided -- in war or peace.
The Palestinians want the eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.
With Netanyahu's Likud trailing the center-left Zionist Union in the last opinion polls before the vote, the Israeli leader ramped up the rhetoric against its leaders Isaac “Bougie” Herzog and Tzipi Livni, warning that a vote for them would endanger Israel's security.
“If Tzipi and Bougie set up the next government, Hamastan 2 will be established on these hills here,” he said, pointing to the surrounding landscape.
“Hamastan” is a derogatory term used by Israeli politicians to refer to the Gaza Strip which has been ruled by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement since 2007.
“We are preventing it (by) developing prestigious neighbourhoods here for tens of thousands of Israelis,” he said.
“They will give in... and the meaning of this is that we won't be able to preserve Israel's security, and the terror that worked against us before will fire missiles at us from these hills.”