· Olmert says he will keep control of Jordan valley
· Pullouts likely as acting PM follows Sharon's vision
The acting Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said yesterday that
he plans to annex the Jordan Valley and major Jewish settlement blocks to Israel
in drawing new borders, according to a television station that recorded an interview
with him yesterday.
In Mr Olmert's first policy statement since he succeeded Ariel Sharon
last month, Channel 2 television said that he made clear he intends to carry
through his predecessor's vision of creating an emasculated Palestinian state
on Israel's terms.
If the Jewish state were to annex all of the Jordan Valley, which is dotted with
small settlements, it would leave a future Palestinian state on the West Bank
entirely surrounded by Israel and without a direct link to neighbouring countries.
The interview was to be broadcast late last night. Channel 2's political affairs
reporter, Nissim Mishal, told Army radio that Mr Olmert, who is favourite to win
next month's general election, also plans further unilateral withdrawals similar
to the settler pullout from Gaza last summer.
"He talked about Israel having to maintain a Jewish majority in the state
of Israel, meaning that we have to create a new border, what is called final
borders. He knows that we can't negotiate with Hamas. So the only conclusion
that can be derived from this is that, in order to reach final borders, Israel
will have to carry out additional [unilateral] withdrawals," said Mishal.
Mr Olmert said he intends to annex the three main settlement blocks of Ariel,
Gush Etzion and Maale Adumim as well as the Jordan Valley, the TV station said.
The pressure group Peace Now estimates 185,000 of the 244,000 Israelis in the
West Bank outside Jerusalem are resident in the settlements Mr Olmert wants
to keep within Israel's border.
That would mean removing about 60,000 settlers, many more than were forced
out of Gaza. On Monday the defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, said the government
was considering unilaterally imposing the borders of a Palestinian state.
"If we won't be able to reach agreed-upon borders, we will operate in
a different way, which it is not appropriate to detail now ... we don't need
to wait for someone else to impose our fate," he said. "In the coming
years, and I'm talking about a few years, the final borders of the state of
Israel will be set down, and the future of most of the settlements in [the West
Bank] and the Jordan Valley will be decided in these two years."
Yesterday Mr Mofaz said Israel would keep targeting Palestinian armed groups,
hours before an air strike killed two men in Gaza said by the army to be al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigades members responsible for firing rockets into Israel.
Israel has killed nine Palestinians this week, mostly Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa
members, in response to rocket attacks, one of which injured a baby. The army
also killed an Islamic Jihad activist in Nablus yesterday. Buildings in Israel
were damaged yesterday by rockets from Gaza. The army struck a bridge and shelled
roads to try to stop rockets being moved to launch sites.