Netanyahu: Israel will not evacuate settlements under peace deal

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli government will not evacuate West Bank settlers from their homes in a peace deal with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said some West Bank Jewish settlements will remain outside of Israel’s permanent borders under a peace agreement, but that he will not force Jews to leave their homes.

“There won’t be an evacuation, I don’t intend to do this. I’ve said this,” Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel 2 on Friday night in his first interview with the Hebrew-speaking media in more than a year.

The Israeli leader said he would provide security to any Israelis living outside of the nation’s borders.

Netanyahu said that under any peace agreement, the Palestinians would have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He said he did not believe the Palestinians were ready to sign a peace agreement.

“First let’s see if they are even willing to negotiate. From what I see, they are very far from this,” he said. “They think they can continue with their acts of refusal — to go with demands to the United Nations and to distance themselves from the question of what their concessions are, how will they recognize a Jewish state.”

He called his meeting last week in Washington with President Obama “positive.”

Obama is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas next week.

Abbas on Friday told youth activists of his Fatah party that there is “no way” he will recognize Israel as Jewish state, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

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