Settlers confident Israel will lurch rightwards in election

Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:13am EST
 
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By Maayan Lubell

HEBRON, West Bank (Reuters) - Entrenched in what they view as their Biblical heartland, the hard-line Jewish settlers of Hebron look forward with delight to next week's Israeli election.

Opinion polls forecast Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, already at odds with the world over Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, will easily win a third term in office, with coalition partners who could push him further to the right.

The pro-settler Bayit Yehudi, a natural ally of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, is forecast to be the third largest faction in parliament. Two Bayit Yehudi candidates - Hebron settlers - have a real chance of winning legislative seats.

"The feeling is good," said Hebron settler Anat Cohen.

"It is clear that the people of Israel want a national government, a Jewish government that wants the land of Israel with Judea and Samaria," she said, using the Biblical name for the West Bank.

Hebron, divided by a 1997 interim peace deal, is home to 200,000 Palestinians and 800 Jews, who live in a closely-guarded enclave and are among the most ideologically driven of the 500,000 settlers on land Palestinians want for a state.

Settlement projects on land Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War are considered illegal by most world powers, which frequently criticize them as an obstacle to peace.

Settler Haim Bleicher, 30, said Israelis no longer believe there is a chance for peace with the Palestinians.   Continued...

 
David Wilder, a spokesman for the Jewish Community of Hebron, poses in front of a biblical-themed mural in the West Bank city of Hebron January 13, 2013. Entrenched in what they view as their Biblical heartland, the hardline Jewish settlers of Hebron look forward with delight to next week's Israeli election. Picture taken January 13, 2013. REUTERS/Baz Ratner