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Ramon: withdraw from most of West Bank

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Israel should withdraw from most of the West Bank in a negotiated settlement, Israel’s deputy premier said.

“In my eyes, the occupation of the territories threatens our very existence, our legitimacy and our international standing,” Haim Ramon told Israel Radio in an interview Friday. He said unilateral withdrawal, the platform that led to his Kadima Party’s victory in the 2006 elections, was no longer an option.

Instead, he said, Israel was looking to the new Palestinian Authority leadership now that P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas had severed ties with the terrorist Hamas movement.

He envisioned a withdrawal to the large settlement blocs near Jerusalem, and suggested NATO troops could patrol the rest of the West Bank.

Ramon stepped down as justice minister last year after being indicted for indecent assault. He was convicted in January. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s invitation to Ramon this month to return to government is seen as a signal that he is embracing Ramon’s long-standing commitment to territorial compromise.

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