Friday, March 10, 2006

Israel Set To Draw Borders By 2010

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expects to draw Israel’s permanent borders by 2010 and, as part of that effort, will build a controversial settlement outside Jerusalem. Mr Olmert, whose Kadima Party is clear front-runner in the March 28 election, told The Jerusalem Post daily that, within four years, he intended to “get to Israel’s permanent borders, whereby we will completely separate from the majority of the Palestinian population and preserve a large and stable Jewish majority in Israel.” Mr Olmert adviser Avi Dichter disclosed that time frame earlier this week, but this was the first time Mr Olmert had publicly stated it. Olmert said Israel would act unilaterally to set its borders, if Hamas militants - poised to take control of the Palestinian Authority - didn’t renounce their violent campaign against Israel and accept the guidelines of an internationally backed peace plan within a “reasonable time”. Should Hamas resist, he said, “we will need to begin to act”.
Israel’s Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Mr Olmert said his broad guidelines for Israel’s borders included incorporating its three major settlement blocs - Maaleh Adumim and Gush Etzion outside Jerusalem, and Ariel, deep inside the West Bank. Residents of isolated settlements could be moved into the major blocs, he told the Haaretz daily. Jerusalem and its environs would also fall within the permanent borders, as would the West Bank’s Jordan Valley on the frontier with Jordan, which Mr Olmert characterised as a “security border”. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat urged Mr Olmert to return to negotiations. “Unilateralism and dictation will only add to the complexities and will not solve problems,” Erekat said. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has stated his interest in resuming long-stalled negotiations, but Mr Olmert told The Jerusalem Post he had no intention of meeting Abbas after the elections because he sees him as part and parcel of a Palestinian Authority dominated by Hamas. The Islamic militant group is in the process of forming a Cabinet it expects to install within weeks. Yesterday, a spokesman in Gaza, Mushir al-Masri, said Hamas would take over the key ministries - finance, foreign affairs and the interior, which oversees some security forces.