Hamas: Olmert's border plan is declaration of war

By Aluf Benn and Yossi Verter

Haaretz

Adar 10, 5766


Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas' political bureau, views Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to shape Israel's permanent borders as a declaration of war on the Palestinian people, the French news agency AFP reported Friday.

A short time later on Friday an EU official said that aid to a Hamas-led Palestinian government may have to be cut off "unless it seeks peace by peaceful means."

Meshal said Olmert's plan is not a peace plan, but constitutes "unilateral moves that will allow Israel to remain in most of the West Bank through construction of the fence, leaving in its hands the settlements and Jerusalem and rejecting the right of return," according to the report. Meshal was quoted as saying that "Olmert is repeating Sharon's mistakes."

Olmert's plan slammed
Israeli politicians from both the right and left also criticized Olmert on Friday and spurned unilateral action.

Olmert told Haaretz on Thursday that if he is elected prime minister, Israel will set down permanent borders within four years, separating itself from the "decisive majority" of the Palestinian population of the West Bank. He also said he will build up the disputed E-1 zone between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, despite American opposition.

To read the full interview, click here.

"Olmert's withdrawal plan is the most extreme leftist plan that has ever been presented to the Israeli public," MK Gideon Sa'ar said Friday. "What [Ehud] Barak offered at Camp David, in exchange for a permanent agrement and the end of the conflict, Olmert is planning to give without getting anything in exchange and with no agrement."

MK Uzi Landau, who ran against Benjamin Netanyahu for the Likud chairmanship after leading the campaign against the disengagement plan, said Olmert's proposed borders would not create enough distance from Hamas and told Israel Radio that voting for Olmert "is like letting a small child play with matches."

"This plan explains why Abu Mazen wants Olmert to win the elections," said Landau. He was referring to Landau was referring to an interview Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas gave to an Italian newspaper. He was quoted as endorsing Olmert, but later disavowed the comments.

Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz said Olmert had not stated who he planned to hold negotiations with, and warned that unilateral action would be "a very serious mistake." He called for talks with Abbas.

Olmert said he plans to offer the settlers a deal in in an effort to reach an agreement about Israel's withdrawal line in the West Bank: convergence into the large settlement blocs and the expansion of those blocs in exchange for evacuation of settlements beyond whatever border is set.

"I believe that in four years' time Israel will be disengaged from the vast majority of the Palestinian population, within new borders, with the route of the fence - which until now has been a security fence - adjusted to the new line of the permanent borders," he said.

"It could be that there will be cases in which we move the fence eastward, and it could be that there will be cases in which we move it westward, in accordance with a line that we will agree upon. We will take a crucial step forward in the shaping of Israel as a Jewish state, in which there is a solid and stable Jewish majority that is not at risk."

Olmert will attempt to garner domestic and international support for shaping Israel's permanent border with the Palestinians. He wants to make sure Israel holds on to Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim, the Jerusalem envelope and Gush Etzion; establish the Jordan Valley as a security border and provide the Israel Defense Forces with freedom of action in the West Bank, similar to the post-disengagement situation in the Gaza Strip.

Olmert also promises to build up the E-1 area linking Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim. The plan was frozen last year due to American opposition, but according to Olmert, Israelis agree there should be contiguity, while the Palestinians and Americans recognize there will be.

"It is completely clear that the contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim will be built up," said Olmert. "This is clear both to the Palestinians and to the U.S. In my opinion, on this matter there is a full consensus in Israel."

Meretz-Yachad chairman Yossi Beilin said Friday that while he does support continued Israeli sovereignty over Ma'aleh Adumim - a point Olmert raised in the interview - he completely opposes building up E-1.

"Whoever proposes building up E-1 is essentially preventing a permanent Israeli-Palestinian agreement," Beilin told Israel Radio. "Whoever builds up E-1 is preventing a contiguous Palestinian state."

Olmert said there is now a "window of opportunity" for reaching an international agreement on setting the border, in the wake of Hamas' rise to power and domestic support following the Gaza pullout.

If the Hamas-led Palestinian government accepts the prerequisites of disarmament, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements, Olmert is prepared to negotiate with Hamas based on the roadmap. But his comments indicate he doesn't think this option has much of a chance.