AFP - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Sunday that he will never evict Jewish settlers from occupied Palestinian land as Israel did in 2005 in the Gaza Strip.
"The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip brought us neither peace nor security. The territory has become a base for the pro-Iranian Hamas movement and we will never make the same mistake again," Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting.
"We will not evict any more people from their homes," he added in comments carried by public radio.
In September 2005, the government of prime minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally removed all Jewish settlements from Gaza in a move aimed at ending Israel's costly 38-year military presence in the Gaza Strip.
Sharon vowed to follow up that withdrawal with further pullbacks from the West Bank, but a massive stroke incapacitated him and his successor Ehud Olmert abandoned the policy in the wake of the June 2006 capture of an Israeli soldier by Gaza-based militants in a deadly cross-border raid.
An opinion poll published on Sunday showed Israeli Jews back Netanyahu's stance against halting construction of settlements in occupied territory, with 66 percent endorsing his view that Israel has the right to build in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of their proposed state.
The survey of 512 people by Tel Aviv University's BI Cohen Institute found that only 27 percent of Israeli Jews, mostly supporters of the leftwing Meretz and Labour parties, oppose Netanyahu’s position.
Netanyahu has risked a rift with Israel's strongest ally, the United States, by refusing to heed Washington's calls to freeze building of settlements, which the international community considers illegal.
Deputy Foreign Minister Dany Ayalon on Sunday rejected UN protests against last week's expulsion of two Palestinian families from their homes in occupied east Jerusalem.
In a meeting with UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry, Ayalon told him the expulsion followed a decision in an Israeli court and that Israeli jurisdiction applied to the entire city, a senior diplomat told AFP.
On August 2 club-wielding Israeli riot police evicted two Palestinian families from their houses in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah district.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the European Union condemned the evictions, which followed an announcement by Israel that it planned to build Jewish homes in the Arab neighborhood.
Israel annexed the eastern part of the city in 1967 but Israeli sovereignty over the conquered territory has not been recognised internationally.
Around 200,000 Jewish people are estimated to have moved into the dozen or so Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem, home to 270,000 Palestinians.