IMEU, Sep 29, 2008
Knesset Profile: Benjamin Netanyahu
Current Chairman of Likud, Netanyahu was Prime Minister of Israel from 1996-1999, and is currently in talks aimed at forming a coalition government that would see him serve a second term as Israel's leader.
Netanyahu has previously advocated mass expulsions of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. During a 1989 lecture at Bar-Ilan University, he said: "Israel should have exploited the repression of the demonstrations in China, when world attention focused on that country, to carry out mass expulsions of the Arabs of the territories." Months later, he stated, "I still believe that there are opportunities to expel many people."
In 1996, he was elected Prime Minister by a margin of less than 1%. During his tenure, which lasted until 1999, Netanyahu signed the Hebron protocol which gave Jewish settlers in Hebron (0.3% of the population) control of 20% of the city, including the commercial center.
Netanyahu resigned following Likud's defeat to Labor at the polls in 1999, but soon after returned to politics and was appointed Minister of Finance under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2003.
He is credited with pushing through highly unpopular privatization reforms, before resigning from the government to voice his opposition to the Gaza disengagement plan. When Sharon left Likud to form Kadima in order to push through the plan, Netanyahu became a favorite for leadership of Likud, and was elected chairman in December 2005.
Many Palestinians fear that a potential return to power for Netanyahu in 2009 could have devastating effects on the already languishing peace process. Netanyahu has continuously expressed his opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state. In a 2002 speech before the Likud Central Committee, he said of a Palestinian state, "Not today, not tomorrow, not ever."
Netanyahu reaffirmed this position in a September 2008 interview, stating that, if elected Prime Minister, he "will not volunteer concessions and the removal of Jewish communities."
Netanyahu has argued that Israel must retain control of West Bank land currently in its jurisdiction under the Oslo Accords, an estimated 59% of the West Bank - including the Jordan Valley at its eastern edge.
In addition, he has claimed that Israel should continue its occupation of the Palestinian territories, seeking only an "economic peace" with Palestinians.He recently outlined a plan under which the West Bank would be divided into a series of disconnected Bantustans, leaving Palestinians only in control of population centers and allowing Israel to retain control of Occupied East Jerusalem, its main West Bank settlement blocs, the Jordan Valley and Judean Desert.
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