Netanyahu election foes want to separate from Palestinians


Jerusalem (AFP)

The main rivals to Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu in April elections said Wednesday they want to separate from the Palestinians but refrained from using the term two-state solution as they released their platform.

The centrist Blue and White alliance spoke of working with Arab states to "intensify the process of separation from the Palestinians while ensuring without compromise Israel's security interests," its platform said.

Blue and White -- named for the colours of Israel's flag -- is headed by former military chief of staff Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, an ex-finance minister.

The alliance is expected to win the most seats ahead of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud, but not nearly enough for an outright victory, based on opinion polls. It is unclear if it would be able to assemble a coalition.

Many analysts believe the April 9 election will be close as Netanyahu faces the threat of indictment for corruption.

Israeli politics have moved firmly to the right in recent years, with much of the population having grown weary of calls for a two-state solution and unwilling to make signficant compromises in favour of the Palestinians.

Netanyahu says he wants the Palestinians to govern themselves, but has declined to specify whether that would mean an independent Palestinian state or some lesser form of autonomy.

Prominent members of his current coalition however openly rule out a Palestinian state and call for Israel to annex much of the West Bank, which it occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War.

There have been growing warnings of diminishing chances for a two-state solution, long the focus of international diplomacy.

US President Donald Trump is expected to release his long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan after the elections.

Blue and White says it sees "united" Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a reference to the entire city, including the eastern sector that the Palestinians want as the capital as their future state.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

It lists the Jordan Valley as Israel's "eastern security border" -- including the portion in the West Bank.

The alliance also envisions strengthening the major settlement blocs in the West Bank.

It says the annexed Golan Heights would remain part of Israel.

The 45-page document also delves into issues such as the economy, public services and Iran, Israel's main enemy.