Benjamin Netanyahu Wants To Keep More of West Bank — Hardens Stance

Citing Bible, Premier Demands Beit El for Israel

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By Reuters

Published January 16, 2014.

Israel’s prime minister has increased the amount of occupied territory he wants to keep after any peace deal with the Palestinians, state media reported on Thursday, a move that could complicate U.S.-backed efforts to reach an accord.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman declined to comment on the report he had added a bloc of Israeli-settled land near the Palestinian governmental seat in the occupied West Bank to a list of enclaves Israel intends to retain.

That would leave 13 percent of the West Bank in Israeli hands, Israel’s Army Radio said, a prospect likely to dismay Palestinians who want the area for a future state. There was no immediate comment from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Netanyahu had also departed from past peace blueprints that had envisaged an equal trade of land inside Israel for any West Bank areas it retained, the radio station said.

Instead, Netanyahu has offered to buy some of the settlement land from the Palestinians, but they had rejected such a deal, it added.

The station attributed its information to an anonymous source familiar with the details of five-month-old, U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

According to the report, Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Israel intends to hold on to the Beit El settlement enclave in addition to the Etzion, Maale Adumim and Ariel blocs it has long said it would keep.

Beit El, north of Jerusalem, is next to the Palestinian city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority run by Mahmoud Abbas is headquartered.



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