Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has said no settlements in the occupied West Bank will be dismantled if he wins next week’s general election.
In an interview with Israel’s Maariv newspaper published on Friday, Netanyahu was asked: “Can you promise that during the next four years, no settlement will be dismantled?”
“Yes,” Netanyahu answered. “The days when bulldozers uprooted Jews are behind us, not in front of us. Our record proves it.”
“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.”
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 right-wing list in Tuesday’s election.
Hanan Cristal, an Israeli public radio commentator, said Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud party, 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”.
Opinion polls on Friday, the last day they are allowed 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 centre-left Labour party would win 16-17 seats and the centrist Yesh Atid and HaTnuah, 10-13 and 7-8, respectively.