Palestinians warm to Netanyahu rival, citing signs of compromise

Palestinians warm to Netanyahu rival, citing signs of compromise

Gantz also expressed a belief that he had all the chances to win the April 9 election.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party would win 32 seats in the 120-seat Israeli parliament, according to a poll released by Kan public broadcasting.

He has so far said little about the Palestinian issue, or whether he supports the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Benny 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.

Gantz's ready-to-rumble rhetoric appears to be the only way to bring down the long-serving Netanyahu.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's toughest election rival voiced openness on Wednesday to a future removal of settlements from the occupied West Bank, sparking debate over diplomacy with the Palestinians as a USA peace plan looms.

The Gaza pullout was a boost for the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which has since fought three wars with Israel.

Former residents of the Gaza Jewish community known as Gush Katif suffered severe unemployment and significantly increased rates of divorce and stress-related health problems in the years following their experience.

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Mr Gantz said the withdrawal was a "diplomatic move" by the government that was carried out in a "painful but good manner".

In an abridged version of the interview published by Ynet and conducted by famed Israeli singer-songwriter Shlomot Artzi and comedian Hanoch Daum, Gantz added that "we have to take its lessons and implement them in other places", suggesting that he would implement additional forcible evictions of Jews under his leadership.

His opponents quickly lambasted him.

In a statement, Likud accused Gantz of planning to form a "leftist government" with the help of Israeli Arab parties that have pro-Palestinian sympathies.

Gantz' Resilience party said "no unilateral decision will be made on settlement evacuation" and that he would "maintain. non-negotiable security protections".

Mr Gantz is now the subject of a lawsuit filed at the Hague by Ismail Ziada, a Dutch-Palestinian citizen born in Gaza's Al Bureij refugee camp. However, his political future faces some uncertainty ahead of an anticipated announcement by the attorney general on whether the prime minister is to be indicted amid multiple corruption investigations in which Netanyahu has been implicated by police. Mr Netanyahu views Saar as a potential replacement and had lobbied party members hard to push him down the list.

"The prime minister uses the soldiers as figures in his electoral campaign", Labour said.

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