Johannesburg – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that he will never evacuate Israel’s illegal settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
"We are here to stay, forever," the prime minister said at an event in the settlement of Barkan, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Israel's occupation of the West Bank.
"There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel. It has been proven that it does not help peace," he said. "We've uprooted settlements. What did we get? We received missiles. It will not happen anymore.
"And there's another reason that we will look after this place, because it looks after us.
“In light of everything that is occurring around us, we can just imagine the result," he said, citing threats to Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport and a main highway that runs along the border with the West Bank, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
"So we will not fold. We are guarding Samaria against those who want to uproot us. We will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle," he said, using the Jewish name for part of the West Bank.
The issue of Israel’s continued expropriation of Palestinian land for the building of new, and the expansion of current settlements, all illegal under international law, is one of the core issues of the continued conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
This controversial matter was one of the subjects of discussion between US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, when he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week in the de-facto Palestinian capital of Ramallah.
As the US attempts to restart peace talks, following the last talks which collapsed in 2014, the Palestinians are pushing for support from the Trump administration for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel which has been part and parcel of Washington’s Mideast policy for the past two decades.
However, Netanyahu is under extreme pressure from his right-wing coalition partners not to stop settlement building in the occupied territory and this pressure contributed to the breakdown of negotiations three years ago.
Most countries consider the continued settlement building illegal and an obstacle to peace, an attitude that hasn’t deterred Israel which cites biblical, historical and political connections to the land, in addition to security interests.
An estimated 450,000-500,000 Israelis live illegally across the internationally recognised Green Line - which demarcates the West Bank from Israel proper - including Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.