Peres says he wants West Bank pullout
CAIRO: Israeli opposition leader Shimon Peres said on Thursday Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to remove Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip should also apply to the West Bank, where far more settlers live.
Sharon announced plans early this month for an extensive unilateral pullout from Gaza, where 7,500 settlers occupy 21 percent of the land amid about one million Palestinians.
“We bless the idea of withdrawal from Gaza. We bless the idea of dismantling the settlements...We think it should be done within the framework of the road map. We think it should be done in coordination with the Palestinians,” Peres said in Cairo. “We are not talking about Gaza first and Gaza last. We are talking about Gaza first and continuing the process on the West Bank,” he told reporters after meeting Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak during an unofficial visit. US officials have commented favourably on the idea of Sharon’s plan but have stopped short of embracing his unilateral approach for fear it would bury the already battered Middle East peace “road map”.
The “road map” crafted by the European Union, the United Nations, Russia and the United States aims to create a Palestinian state by next year. Sharon has said Israel would draw a new “security line”, widely expected to encompass major Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, should the road map fail. More than 200,000 settlers live in the West Bank. —Reuters