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Updated: January 21, 2010 00:41 IST

Netanyahu demands Israeli presence in West Bank

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting with the foreign journalists in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting with the foreign journalists in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel must have a presence in the West Bank even after a peace agreement is achieved, the first time he has spelled out such a demand.

He said the experience of rocket attacks from the Lebanese and Gaza borders means Israel must be able to prevent such weapons from being brought into a Palestinian entity in the West Bank.

“We cannot afford to have that across from the centre of our country,” he told foreign reporters on Wednesday in Jerusalem.

“We are surrounded by an ever-growing arsenal of rockets placed in the Iranian-supported enclaves to the north and to the south,” he said, referring to Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians want to create an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem with no Israeli presence, military or civilian.

Under the current situation, Israel is in overall control of the West Bank and its borders, though the Palestinian Authority patrols main population centres.

Mr. Netanyahu outlined the defensive systems Israel is developing to knock down incoming rockets, but he admitted that they are “prohibitively expensive.” He said that Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza get their rockets from neighbouring countries, and that must be stopped.

At the news conference, Mr. Netanyahu also appealed for tough international sanctions against Iran. He said there is “wide acceptance” of Israel’s view that Iran poses a strategic threat because of its nuclear programme.

“The question is, is there a willingness to act. We will soon find out,” he said.

Mr. Netanyahu did not refer to the possibility that Israel or others might attack Iran militarily. Iran has insisted that its nuclear programme is peaceful, but Israel, the U.S. and others suspect that Iran is constructing nuclear weapons.

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