Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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15 Adar 5766 - March 15, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Olmert Details His Plans for Permanent Borders

by M Plaut

In an apparent bid to win a mandate for his policies, Acting Prime Minister and head of Kadima Ehud Olmert detailed his plans for a unilaterally-imposed, permanent arrangement with the Palestinians. It is based on the policies followed by Ariel Sharon, Olmert's predecessor, but goes well beyond anything that Sharon ever declared in public that he was planning to do.

Olmert said that he intends to move the security fence in several places, evacuate all the settlers who live outside that fence and make it the border with the Palestinians. Presumably the Palestinians would not be allowed to have a state as long as Hamas is in control, but Olmert did not say anything about the political arrangements that he envisions for the Palestinians.

Olmert called his plan a "convergence" plan, meaning that all settlers will "converge" on several major blocs, and leave the rest of the Territories, with the exception of a corridor along the Jordan River. He said that be believes that it is in Israel's best interest to follow this plan, that will reduce contact between Israelis and Palestinians, and will preserve a Jewish majority in Israel.

The Israeli Left and parts of the Right (or the former Right) have cited the demographic threat from the Palestinians as a major policy consideration. Although the numbers of Israelis and their historical growth rates are fairly reliable, the Palestinian numbers are much less believable. Some researchers have concluded that Palestinian population figures are overstated by at least 25 percent, due to double counting and reliance on overly optimistic estimates and projections.

As long as there is no agreement with the Palestinians, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert intends to keep the West Bank under IDF control even after all the settlements beyond the security fence are evacuated, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra said. However Olmert himself declined to comment on this idea. The idea was first raised in public by Kadima candidate Avi Dichter: that there would be a civilian evacuation to reduce friction, but that the IDF would remain in control to enhance security.

Ezra endorsed Dichter's idea and said that it was part of Olmert's thinking and Kadima's plans for after the March 28 election. It is the model that was followed in the small withdrawal from two West Bank settlements last summer, in contrast to the withdrawal from Gaza where full control was handed over to the Palestinians.

Asked about Olmert's hesitation to speak about separating civilian and military disengagement, Ezra said he had not been told not to talk about the idea. Kadima's leaders and strategists decided that Kadima officials would speak freely in the press about the ideas Dichter raised but would not specify which settlements would remain.

Other top Kadima officials said there was no consensus in the party about the idea. Sources in the Defense Ministry said that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz was interested in pulling settlers and soldiers out of the West Bank simultaneously. Kadima candidate Shimon Peres continues to have faith in negotiations with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Another Kadima minister said he was confused at the rapid shift between different diplomatic plans.

Other Kadima officials said that the idea was not popular with the general public. A recent poll found that 37 percent support the Kadima plan, 49 percent oppose and 14 percent gave other answers.

Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu responded that Olmert was misleading the public by assuming that he would form the government. He said that in the weekend interviews Olmert "removed his Purim mask."

"The president will ask the party that gets the most recommendations to form the government, not the party with the most seats," Netanyahu said.

Olmert approached the US with his plan before he made it public, an aide said. Spokesman Asaf Shariv said an Olmert aide presented the plan to a US official before Olmert disclosed it in interviews last week. "They neither approved nor objected to it," Shariv said.


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