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Minister says Israel will not give up settlements of Ofra and Beit El near Ramallah

Israel's Minister of Defence has said that any political agreement with the Palestinians will exclude a number of settlements in the occupied West Bank. Ehud Barak claimed that the Zionist state will not "abandon" the illegal settlements of Ofra and Beit El near Ramallah.

Barak told Israeli Army Radio, "In any map I can think of for final status negotiations, Ofra, Beit El and Baal Hazor must be part of Israel."

He added, "I think that there are many things to be done in order to promote Beit El as a very important settlement and I have no doubt whatsoever regarding its future."

The Hebrew newspaper Haaretz called such statements "a change in Barak's position". In the Camp David negotiations when he was Prime Minister of Israel, noted Haaretz, he had agreed to transfer most West Bank land to the Palestinians, including East Jerusalem .

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