September 24, 2012 - 15:39 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Israel's Defense Minister called for a unilateral pullout from much of the West Bank in published comments Monday, Sept 24, saying Israel must take "practical steps" if peace efforts with the Palestinians remain stalled.
According to The Associated Press, the comments by Ehud Barak appeared to put him at odds with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has resisted making any major concessions to the Palestinians in the absence of peace talks. Negotiations have been deadlocked for nearly four years. Netanyahu's office declined comment.
Barak's proposal is unlikely to be implemented, at least in the near term. Netanyahu's coalition is dominated by hardliners who would be reluctant to embrace the plan. But Netanyahu is widely expected to call early elections in the coming weeks, and Barak may be trying to attract centrist voters to his party ahead of an upcoming campaign.
Speaking to the Israel Hayom newspaper, Barak called for uprooting dozens of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but said Israel would keep major settlement "blocs."
These blocs, home to 80 to 90 percent of the settler population, are mostly located near the frontiers with Israel proper, though one of them, Ariel, is located deep inside the West Bank. Barak also said Israel would need to maintain a military presence along the West Bank's border with Jordan.
The remaining settlers would be given financial incentives to leave, or be allowed to remain in their homes under Palestinian control for a five-year "trial period," Barak said.