Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Criticism of West Bank withdrawal

Aluf Benn writes in Haaretz about growing disagreement inside Israel's ruling Kadima party as regards 'convergence':

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday that the current wave of violence in Gaza would not prevent Israel's planned withdrawal from most of the West Bank or the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

"I am absolutely determined to carry out the separation from the Palestinians, and establish secure borders," Olmert 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.

We want to separate in a friendly manner and to live alongside each other... in a peaceful way," Olmert said. "If the terrorist organizations will impose a violent confrontation, both Israelis and Palestinians will have to bear the consequences. That can't stop the inevitable process of separation of Israelis and Palestinians."

The prime minister's comments came amid increasing disagreement among the leaders of his Kadima party over the feasibility of a unilateral withdrawal.

"The chances of implementing the convergence plan at the moment are very slight," Housing and Construction Minister Meir Sheetrit told the Knesset television channel yesterday. "There are many doubts, my own among them. I do not believe in unilateral disengagement."

Olmert's bureau said it was "convinced that Minister Sheetrit will change his mind when the plan comes up for approval, and will honor government and faction discipline."

But Sheetrit wasn't the only Kadima official to urge caution.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who responded on behalf of the government yesterday to no-confidence motions, told the Knesset 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."

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