Palestinians 'cautiously optimistic' as Netanyahu's rival hints settlement withdrawal

Palestinians 'cautiously optimistic' as Netanyahu's rival hints at West Bank settlement withdrawal
2 min read
06 February, 2019
The Palestinian presidency's spokesperson said it's 'encouraging' that Netanyahu's rival hinted at withdrawal from the West Bank in an interview.
Settlements are considered illegal under international law [Getty]

The Palestinian presidency’s office has given a cautious welcome to remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s closest election rival suggesting openness to withdrawal from the occupied West Bank.

“It’s encouraging, if he succeeds and he sticks to this opinion,” Nabil Abu Rdeineh told Reuters after former general Benny Gantz told an Israeli newspaper he opposed dominating another population and suggested the possibility that Israel may repeat its 2005 removal of Gaza settlers in the West Bank.

Last week, Gantz  raised the possibility of pulling back from the occupied West Bank, in remarks published Wednesday that drew right-wing criticism but were welcomed by the Palestinians.

Gantz, the former armed forces chief of staff, spoke positively of Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005, in his first interview since launching his election campaign last week.

The Gaza withdrawal had been "approved by the Israeli government and implemented by the army and settlers in a painful but good way", he told the Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

"(One should) learn from it and apply it to other places," he said.

Gantz did not explicitly mention the West Bank in his remarks and refrained from outlining conditions for any pullback from the occupied Palestinian territory.

The 59-year-old launched his campaign on January 29 in a speech promising a conservative diplomatic and security policy.

He pledged to keep the strategic Jordan Valley area of the occupied West Bank under Israeli rule, along with the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights and East Jerusalem.

Although he did not say so in the interview, Gantz could support a withdrawal from wildcat outposts that are not approved by the Israeli authorities.

All Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law but Israel draws a distinction between those it sanctions and those it does not.

Agencies contributed to this report.