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Netanyahu stresses settlement policy before Israel vote

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has listed conditions to accept a U.S. back-channel peace plan known as "deal of the century", in a move seen by analysts as aiming to court voters ahead of Tuesday's general election. 

In an interview with Israel Hayom newspaper, Netanyahu, the leader of the right-wing Likud Party, said he had not coordinated with U.S. President Donald Trump about the "deal of the century" but forwarded "three basic conditions". 

According to Netanyahu, these conditions are; "No single settler will be uprooted from the West Bank, the West Bank will remain under Israeli control, and Jerusalem will not be divided". 

Commenting on the situation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu said he refuses the return of the PA to power in Gaza, citing that Israel is benefiting from the Palestinian division. 

The PA swiftly condemned and rejected Netanyahu's remarks, calling them "irresponsible," according to the official Wafa news agency. 

Nabil al-Khatib, a lecturer in political science and international relations at Birzeit University in the West Bank, told Anadolu Agency that Netanyahu's remarks "represent a continuation of the known positions of the Israeli government." 

"The deal of the century will not be far from the core of the Israeli position," he said. 

He stressed that the Palestinian position towards the U.S. administration and its plan "must continue to reject the principle of American mediation, and therefore refuses to deal with any U.S. proposals." 

Netanyahu's Likud Party and Blue and White political alliance led by Benny Gantz are considered the main rivals in Tuesday's polls to elect members of Knesset (Israel's parliament). 

Courting votes 

Al-Khatib ruled out the possibility of a rift between Trump and Netanyahu regarding the deal of the century. 

"The tone of Netanyahu's statements is inspired by the election," he said. "He wants to show himself as the one who imposes conditions on the American side." 

"But in the future, the American plan may come in line with the Israeli position, and have discrepancy in limited details," the lecturer said. 

He however; stressed that if there are terms in the peace plan that would be hard for Netanyahu to accept, yet "it will be embarrassing for him to reject them because of the exceptional [good] relation between him and Trump." 

Al-Khatib believes that Trump could be avoiding exposing Netanyahu to internal political pressure before the election by "delaying the introduction" of his peace plan. 

Emad Abu Awwad, head of the West Bank-based Al-Quda Center for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs, said that Netanyahu's remarks "affirm" his settlement policy. 

"He will benefit from the statements in the election," Abu Awwad told Anadolu Agency. "He has already adopted this policy on the ground since taking office." 

"His policy is already established and systematic, but he also wants to emphasize it to bring more votes in his favor," he said. 

As for the peace process recession since 2014, Abu Awwad said that Netanyahu's last election campaign in 2015 was themed with "affirmation that that there will be no peace". 

Abu Awwad noted that Netanyahu said in a video clip that "peace is not on the agenda of the Likud but the gradual elimination of the dream of a Palestinian state without openly expressing that to the world public opinion." 

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