Olmert plans West Bank pullout, J’lem expansion
Acting prime minister tells Jerusalem Post within next four years he intends to ‘get to Israel's permanent borders, whereby we will completely separate from majority of Palestinian population’; vows to resume construction in area between capital, Ma’aleh Adumim
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the weekend newspapers that he plans within the next four years 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,” adding that he will build in the E-1 area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim.
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post Olmert presented his partial vision for Israel’s future borders, saying they will include Gush Etzion, the "Jerusalem envelope," Ma'aleh Adumim, the "Ariel region" and the Jordan River as a “security border.”
The plan to build thousands of housing units in the E-1 area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim drew widespread international criticism, also from the U.S.
Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the decision to freeze construction in the area, and paid a visit to the area just one day after being elected to head Likud.
As to fellow Kadima member Avi Dichter’s claims that Israel would maintain its control over the Jordan Valley and the settlements of Ofra, Beit El, Karnei Shomron and Kedumim, as well as the Kiryat Arba-Hebron block, Olmert said cynically “Dichter is perhaps a candidate to be in the next government, depending on how things develop, but he is not poised to be prime minister.”
'International dialogue to create change in PA'
The acting prime minister said that prior to determining Israel’s future borders he would hold an "internal dialogue inside Israel to get to a definition that reflects a wide national consensus about what need to be Israel's permanent borders. I intend to speak to everyone, and first and foremost the public that lives in the territories."
According to Olmert, should he be elected prime minister, he will wait “a reasonable amount of time” to see if Hamas will recognize Israel, denounce terror, disarm, respect all agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and accept the road map peace plan as a the frame for future peace talks.
"We will wait, but I don't intend to wait forever. If after a reasonable time passes it becomes clear that the PA is not willing to accept these principles, we will need to begin to act,” he told the Jerusalem Post.
Olmert said Israel will initiate an international dialogue to “create a change in the PA.” If these efforts fail, Israel will be forced to act unilaterally and set its own borders in manner that would generate as little international opposition as possible.
Once the border is determined Israel would "not lose any option for security action in line with our needs in the fight against terrorism, which is to a large degree the case today in Gaza," he said.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu said during an elections conference in Kiryat Shmona "Hamas is a cancerous growth – it either grows or shrinks, it doesn't stand still. If we don't do something, it will grow until it reaches Gush Dan (Tel Aviv area).
"Today it can still be stopped, (but) after four years of Ehud Olmert, I'm not sure we'll succeed," he added.