Senior members of Kadima openly expressed doubts about future
pullbacks planned under Prime Minister Olmert's much-
discussed plans, but Olmert himself expressed a resolve to
continue in any case.
"The chances right now of implementing realignment are very
small. There are many reservations, including my own,"
Construction and Housing Minister Meir Shetreet said Monday.
"I don't believe in another unilateral withdrawal. What is
going on in Gaza reinforces the opposition to
Shetreet said his position reflected that of former prime
minister Ariel Sharon. "Without peace I'm not prepared to
give an inch," Shetreet said.
And Shetreet was not alone. Minister of Immigrant Absorption
Ze'ev Boim, a close Olmert confidant, said that although he
felt realignment was strategically the best plan to set
Israel's permanent borders, the current security situation
made the plan "irrelevant."
"The big question is whether it could be done when the
cannons are firing. I don't know if it's possible. I'm sure
it's not the right time," he said.
The prime minister wants to withdraw from most of the West
Bank by 2010 to allow the Palestinians to gain independence
and to secure a long-term Jewish majority for Israel.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also said that Israel needs to
protect its security interests during the convergence, and
warned against a hasty unilateral move.
"If someone thought that convergence is a way of throwing the
key over the fence and walking away, while thinking that
everything will be alright — that is not my thinking.
And the convergence will not be like that, because there are
interests that we must take into account, primarily the
security of the State of Israel," she said.
Avi Dichter, a former Shin Bet chief and current public
security minister, said that the Israel Defense Forces must
stay "everywhere" in the West Bank even after dismantling
settlements there, "until a Palestinian entity is found that
can take responsibility."
Olmert told a Jerusalem press conference that he remained
committed to the plan, although the situation in Gaza made
matters more difficult.
Olmert said that neither Hamas's election nor the recent
events in Gaza have changed his "basic commitment" to the
realignment plan. He said he remained "absolutely determined
to carry on in order to ultimately separate from the
Palestinians and establish the secure borders that will be
recognized by the international community and at the same
time that will allow Palestinians contiguous territory where
they can have their own state."
Olmert described the plan as "basically a concept of
gradually separating the Israelis from the Palestinians." He
said that Israel wanted to separate "in a friendly manner"
from the Palestinians.
An Olmert associate said, "We are sure that Shetreet will
change his mind when he sees the plan and we are even more
sure that Shetreet will respect the future decisions of the
government and faction discipline inside Kadima."
Olmert also rejected the idea that the current events in Gaza
show that disengagement was a failure. He said that the
situation now was "much better" for Israel than it was before
"Can you imagine how [much] more deadly the shooting of
Kassam missiles would be if 17 settlements would be within
200-500 meters of Palestinian centers in Gaza?" he asked.
Olmert declined to give any timetable for the Gaza
"We are operating cautiously, resolutely and patiently in the
Gaza Strip, and therefore, we will not announce how long the
operation will continue," he told Kadima members.
Olmert said Operation Summer Rains shows the terror
organizations that terrorism does not pay, and said
maintaining the balance between operational effectiveness and
limited harm to civilians will bring security to Negev