Olmert presents plan to finalise Israel’s borders
JERUSALEM/GAZA CITY: Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Kadima party presented on Sunday its draft government programme to the centre-left Labour party as negotiations to form a new coalition government inched closer to resolution.
Although the full programme was not made public, sources within both parties said that Olmert had fleshed out his plans to fix the final borders of the Jewish state within the lifetime of his government, which can run for up to four years.
Olmert made clear that in the absence of peace negotiation progress, he would seek to drum up international backing for his so-called convergence plan, which would see around 70,000 settlers pulled out of the occupied West Bank. In return, Israel would keep hold of its main settlement blocs.
Labour has already voiced its support for the principles of the convergence plan.
David Libai, head of Labour’s negotiating team, expressed broad satisfaction with the guidelines of the new government. The Kadima document, he said, shows that Israel “wants to reach an end to the conflict (with the Palestinians) by negotiations in order to fix the borders, which signals that there will be another withdrawal”.
“The text says that if it proves impossible to have negotiations, Israel will take its fate into its own hands in the framework of a national agreement.”
Olmert has until May 4 to present a new government line-up for the approval of MPs and confirmation of his position as prime minister. Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last year uprooted barely a tenth of those expected to be moved under Olmert’s convergence plan, and cost around $1.5 billion dollars to implement.
Islamic Jihad vows continued attacks against Israel: Meanwhile, the leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group said on Sunday that rocket attacks and suicide bombings against Israeli targets would continue, despite an Israeli offensive in the northern Gaza Strip.
In a statement posted on the Islamic Jihad website, Ramadan Shallah said that his group was also making “non-stop efforts” by suicide bombers to infiltrate Israel from the West Bank.
“The non-stop crackdown against our resistance might limit this effort, but it’s not going to stop it,” he said.
Shalah, who lives in exile in Syria, was speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Iran. His comments were published ahead of a meeting in Gaza between Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and rival factions, including Islamic Jihad. agencies