Settlements hold key to Israel's survival: Dutch MP

6th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Israel must keep on building settlements in the occupied West Bank to defend itself against the forces of Islam out to destroy the Jewish state, visiting ultra-rightwing Dutch MP Geert Wilders said.

According to a transcript of a speech late on Sunday at a Tel Aviv conference organised by a far-right Israeli party, Wilders said settlement building was a "strategic" necessity essential to Israel's survival.

"For the sake of its own survival and security, Israel needs defendable borders," he said.

"A country that is only 15 kilometres (nine miles) wide is impossible to defend," he said, referring to the shortest distance from the West Bank to the Mediterranean -- often referred to as Israel's "narrow waist."

"That is the strategic reason why Jews need to settle Judaea and Samaria," he said, using the biblical term for the West Bank.

Wilders, who has repeatedly been accused of inciting anti-Islamic hatred, was visiting Israel at the personal invitation of MP Arye Eldad, head of the small, ultra-nationalist Hatikva party.

"The Jewish towns and villages in Judaea and Samaria are not an impediment to peace," he said.

"They are tiny outposts of freedom, defying ideological forces which deny not only Israel but the entire West the right to live in peace, dignity and liberty."

Islam, and not Israel, was to blame for the conflict in the Middle East, he charged.

"This conflict here in the Middle East is not about land and borders, but about Islamic jihadism opposing Western liberty," he said. "Islamic ideology simply does not accept the concept of a Jewish state."

Israel, he said, was "the West's canary in the coalmine."

"If the Jews are denied the right to live in freedom and peace, soon we will all be denied this right," he said. "If Israel falls, the West falls."

He also blamed the problem of Palestinian refugees on the Arab world and Islam, and said they should go and live in what he called the Palestinian state which already exists -- Jordan.

Wilders, a shadow partner of the new Dutch rightist coalition government, went on trial in October for calling Islam "fascist" and likening the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf".

If convicted, the controversial politician, known for his signature shock of dyed-blonde hair, risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600-euro fine.

Newly-relaunched direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians ran aground at the end of September after the expiry of a temporary Israeli ban on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.

The Palestinians say they cannot negotiate while Jewish settlers build on land they want for a future state, but until now Israel has refused to consider a new freeze.

The international community considers all Jewish settlements built on occupied Palestinian land to be illegal.

© 2010 AFP

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