Israeli Housing Minister Ariel Sharon, an influential hard-liner, called Saturday for his country to annex parts of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.
He also urged the government to disregard international reaction and expel Palestinian leaders in the territories, whom he blamed for a spate of stabbings attacks against Jews.Sharon, of the ruling Likud Party, is a vociferous opponent of a 1989 government plan for elections in the occupied territories that would lead to limited self-rule for the 1.75 Palestinians who live there.
"If the government does decide to proceed along its way of autonomy or elections, then Israel will have to take security measures - the most important will be to annex the areas which are settled by Jews," he told Israel Radio.
"By that you prevent the possibility of the creation of a second Palestinian state," he said, reiterating his belief that Jordan is a Palestinian state because at least half its population is Palestinian.
Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria and Arab East Jerusalem from Jordan, both of which were captured in the 1967 Middle East war, drew international criticism.
Some 100,000 Jews live in at least 100 settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where Palestinians have been waging an uprising against Israeli rule for more than three years.
Sharon said earlier this week that Israel must quicken the pace of Jewish settlement there to counter "political dangers" after the gulf war, and confirmed he was boosting housing construction.
He also pledged to double to 20,000 the Jewish population of the Golan Heights, which were annexed 10 years ago.
His announcements were seen as an attempt to scuttle U.S. moves to broker an Arab-Israeli peace treaty based on the Jewish state's withdrawal from occupied lands.