Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir pledged Saturday that if he forms a new coalition government Israel will resume building Jewish settlements in the occupied territories despite American opposition.
Shamir also predicted the success of the religious parties in last Tuesday's elections would lead to the passage of a controversial law redefining a Jew, a measure that would affect thousands of Jews in the United States and the West.Shamir, leader of the right-wing Likud Party, was widely viewed as the most likely candidate to form a new coalition government following parliamentary elections Tuesday. Likud narrowly defeated the Labor Party led by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
Although the two parties won roughly the same number of seats in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, Shamir was in the best position to form a new government because of the strong showing of several religious parties friendly to Likud.
Shamir pledged in an interview with Israel Radio Saturday that he would resume construction of new settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip after he formed the next coalition government.
Nearly 70,000 Israelis live in more than 100 settlements in the territories. Both Likud and Labor have supported the settlement program, but Likud has pushed the program in recent years to create a power base that would oppose giving up the territories as part of any peace plan. Labor opposes any new settlements in heavily populated Arab areas.
Shamir favors retaining Israeli sovereignty over the territories while granting Palestinian residents some form of limited autonomy. Peres and his Labor Party want to yield control of some areas of the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for a peace agreement.
The United States repeatedly has criticized plans to create civilian settlements during the past year, saying it would worsen tension in the territories, where Palestinians have waged a nearly 11-month-old rebellion against 21 years of Israeli occupation.
Soldiers shot and wounded at least 13 Palestinians during scattered clashes Saturday in the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian sources said. The army confirmed at least three wounded in Gaza.