JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended building in West Bank settlements Sunday, as he competed for votes against the pro-settler party Jewish Hope ahead of general elections this week.
“Last night, I met with five U.S. senators, Democrats and Republicans, and I told them that the problem is not building in Ariel and it is not building in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu told the weekly Cabinet meeting, according to an e-mail from his office. “The problem in the Middle East is Iran’s attempt to build nuclear weapons, and the chemical weapons in Syria and the Islamic extremism that is spreading in Africa and threatening to inundate the entire region.”
Netanyahu was to speak Sunday at the funeral of Ron Nachman, the former mayor of the West Bank city of Ariel. The prime minister’s support for building there and other Israeli settlements has been condemned by Palestinians, and criticized by the U.S., European Union and United Nations.
Parties that support Netanyahu remaining in office will win a majority in the Israeli parliament in the Jan. 22 election, according to a poll published Jan. 18 in the Yediot Ahronot daily newspaper.
The survey projected that the prime minister’s own Likud-Beitenu parliamentary list, which he formed by combining his Likud party together with foreign minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu faction on a single ballot, will garner 32 Knesset seats, 10 fewer than the two parties currently hold.
The Yediot survey also projected the Jewish Home party, which strongly supports settlement building, rising to 12 seats from its current three.
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