published Monday, September 24th, 2012

Israeli defense chief proposes West Bank pullout

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, left, arrives at the Prime Minister's office to attend the weekly cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Menahem Kahana, Pool)
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, left, arrives at the Prime Minister's office to attend the weekly cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Menahem Kahana, Pool)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's defense minister is calling for a unilateral pullout from most of the West Bank if peace efforts with the Palestinians remain stalled.

Ehud Barak calls for uprooting dozens of settlements but says Israel would keep major settlement blocs, mostly near the frontiers of Israel proper, and maintain a military presence in an area along the border with Jordan.

His remarks came in an interview published on Monday in the Israel Hayom newspaper.

He says it would be preferable to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians but after four years of deadlock, he says Israel must take "practical steps."

The Palestinians reject Israeli moves. They seek all of the West Bank under a negotiated agreement.

Barak's proposal is also likely to face heavy opposition from Israeli hardliners.

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