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Olmert: Israel Will Draw Final Borders Unilaterally


Israel is working on a sweeping plan to reshape its borders. But, future West Bank pullouts would not be coordinated with the Palestinians.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Israel plans to draw its final borders unilaterally by 2010. In Israeli newspaper interviews, Mr. Olmert said he would prefer to do it as part of an agreement with the Palestinians, but he said the prospects for peace have dimmed since the election of the Islamic militant group Hamas six weeks ago. Hamas seeks the destruction of the Jewish state.

Mr. Olmert said Israel would withdraw from some West Bank territory, and move Jewish settlers to the Israel side of the new border. The border would be delineated by a network of fences and walls.

"I think that the emergence of Hamas as a victor in these elections, for Israel signals, as the slogan goes, that there is no partner on the Palestinian side," said Israeli analyst Gershon Baskin. "And, I believe that the advocates in Israel for continued unilateralism will be victorious, as well."

Mr. Olmert and his centrist Kadima party are expected to win national elections on March 28, so he is setting out his strategy for the future. The plan is to withdraw from heavily populated Palestinian areas, and create a strong Jewish majority within the redrawn borders.

While some West Bank settlements would be evacuated, Mr. Olmert said he would hold on to and strengthen several big settlement blocs, and attach them to Israel.

Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Redeineh said that is a violation of the internationally-backed "road map" peace plan.

"All settlements are illegal, according to the road map, and according to the international legality," he said. "These unilateral activities are not useful, are illegal."

Hamas said it would not recognize Israel's borders, describing the plan as unilateral annexation. But at the same time, the group said it would welcome any Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territory.

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