Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he wanted to carry out West Bank withdrawal in one single step, which he believes will be less traumatic for the Israeli public.
In an exclusive Shavuot interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, Olmert said: “I want to clarify that I am opposed to dividing the realignment into stages. This process will be difficult and painful even if it goes smoothly. I think carrying it out in stages will traumatize the public, and I have mentioned before that I am opposed to this.”
Regarding the realignment, Olmert said, “we will try to establish an infrastructure of international understanding, aiming to bring about borders…by concentrating Jewish communities and creating a contiguous Palestinian-governed territory. At a certain stage, there will be maps too. What is a plan? A plan is what you have in your head. In my head I have a plan. I don’t know it to a 1-mm resolution, but I certainly know what I want. We need to be patient.”
'Nothing will stop me'
The prime minister added that he was determined to implement the realignment plan. “On this matter, nothing will stop me. That is why I am here. There is always the risk that the moment one takes the prime minister chair, it is very comfortable to pass four years at ceremonies and events. But I’ve passed that. I’ve been at all the ceremonies, the inaugurations and the memorial services. I feel that now is the moment of truth, in which I have to recruit all the soul’s resources and energies to take a step that will lead the Israeli nation to a different place. I hope that at the end of my term the reality here will be completely different.”
According to Olmert, the first time the disengagement plan was presented to the Knesset was almost a full year after it was drawn up. “I plan to do exactly what I promised. First I’ll check if circumstances permit negotiations with the Palestinians. People say, ‘he changed his mind.’ But whoever says that either is not listening or doesn’t understand: On January 25, in my Hertzliya speech, I addressed (PA Chairman) Mahmoud Abbas and said that I hope we can hold talks with him,” Olmert noted.
“I plan to meet with Abbas towards the end of June, after I meet (Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak, (Jordanian King) Abdullah and with European leaders. But I won’t concede the conditions to holding negotiations, as was established in the road map and by the Quartet. I will meet Abbas to see if there is a chance these conditions can be upheld. If they are, there will be talks. If not – we’ll act independently, but not alone. We will hold talks with the United States and the European community and try to create momentum with the other side, which isn’t the Palestinian side. I am not giving an ultimatum. It is not respectable or appropriate. I have a timetable but I’m not planning to announce it,” Olmert said.
Wallerstein: Hold discussion
Responding to Olmert’s comments, Head of the Binyamin Regional Council Pinhas Wallerstein said: “I can’t manage to understand Olmert’s words, because I’ve never heard from anyone why the realignment is a good thing. The disengagement brought the election of Hamas and Qassams on Ashkelon, so what good can come out of the realignment? There needs to be a discussion in society and it must be remembered that actually in the recent elections only Kadima was in favor of realignment.”
“Even if we count all the Left-wing parties, Meretz and Labor, it means that the Jewish public in Israel voted against the realignment. It is true that Olmert can get support in the Knesset by making deals, like with the pensioners’ party, but whoever voted for them didn’t vote for realignment. The people decided against it, and we will act accordingly,” Wallerstein said.