In an exclusive interview for i24NEWS-Israel Hayom’s joint election special less than 48 hours before Israelis begin casting ballots, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed not to uproot a single Israeli settler from the West Bank, a move he said would be tantamount to “ethnic cleansing.”
Netanyahu reiterated his vow that if re-elected, he would extend Israel’s sovereignty to settlements in the West Bank, but clarified he has no intention the West Bank in its entirety.
“I did not say I would annex the West Bank, I said I would apply Israeli law to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu affirmed.
“I said time and time again, I will not remove a single Israeli forcibly, I am against ethnic cleansing,” he added.
Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected relinquishing Israeli military control over territory west of the Jordan River. Israel maintains full security and administrative control over the West Bank’s “Area C,” which comprises some 60% of the territory.
'I've said time and time again that I would NOT remove a single #Israeli settlement or single Israeli, forcibly— I am against this whole notion of ethnic cleansing,' @netanyahu says to @MichelleMakori: pic.twitter.com/yZ2NUC3ZyW
— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) April 7, 2019
The prime minister’s remarks were criticized domestically as a ploy to appeal to pro-settlement right-wing voters, and internationally as a threat to the two-state solution.
Many of Netanyahu’s right-wing political rivals openly call for the annexation of Area C, where most major Israeli settlement blocs are concentrated, while others call for the application of Israeli sovereignty over the entire West Bank where some 430,000 Israeli settlers live among 2.6 million Palestinians.