'The main challenger to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the country’s upcoming elections has suggested Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank may be removed should he come to power.
Benny Gantz, a former general and head of the newly founded Resilience Party, is seen as the biggest threat to Mr Netanyahu’s 10-year reign in elections scheduled for April.
Mr Gantz had previously said some West Bank settlements would “remain forever”. In his first interview since announcing his run for prime minister, he cited the dismantling of settlements in Gaza in 2005 as an example that could be replicated in the West Bank.
“All sides had a lot at stake and the state managed to do it without tearing the country apart. It was done legally, carried out by the State of Israel and the IDF, and even though it was very painful for the settlers, it was handled well,” he said.
“We must take the lessons of the disengagement and implement them in other arenas.”
Many Israelis consider the Gaza disengagement under then prime minister Ariel Sharon a historic mistake that emboldened the Islamist group Hamas.
But the continued growth of settlements in the West Bank is seen as one of the greatest barriers to an eventual peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. More than 400,000 Israelis live in the territory, and a further 200,000 in East Jerusalem, both of which were captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.'
Read more: Israel election challenger to Netanyahu suggests West Bank settlements could be dismantled
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