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Israel's Netanyahu rejects evacuation of settler

Hawkish former premier Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed not to evacuate Jewish settlements in the West Bank if he is named prime minister after February 10 elections, Haaretz daily reported.

world Updated: Jan 30, 2009 15:01 IST

Hawkish former premier Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed not to evacuate Jewish settlements in the West Bank if he is named prime minister after February 10 elections,

Haaretz daily

reported on Friday.

Netanyahu, the frontrunner for the parliamentary elections, insisted he would not be tied by any pledge made by outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to withdraw settlers from the occupied Palestinian territory.

"I will not keep Olmert's commitments to withdraw and I won't evacuate settlements. Those understandings are invalid and unimportant," the newspaper quoted Netanyahu as saying.

Olmert told visiting US peace envoy George Mitchell earlier this week that Israel had offered in negotiations with the Palestinians to remove 60,000 settlers from the West Bank, according to Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

He also wants Israel to annex large Jewish settlement blocs in exchange for the transfer to a future Palestinian state of territory in southern Israel, the daily said.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, whose centrist Kadima party trails Netanyahu's right-wing Likud in opinion polls, distanced herself from Olmert's statements, telling a meeting in Tel Aviv on Thursday they did not represent her views.

A total of 285,000 settlers live in the West Bank and another 200,000 in annexed east Jerusalem, both of which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Palestinians and the international community consider settlements a major hurdle to the peace process.