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Olmert Promotes West Bank Pullout Ahead of Israeli Elections


With Israeli elections just two days away, the frontrunner is spelling out his vision for the nation's future borders. Israel plans to bypass the Palestinians and negotiate instead with the world powers.

Israel's Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he will seek U.S. and international approval for his plan to draw Israel's final borders unilaterally over the next four years.

Interviewed on Israel Radio, Mr. Olmert said there is great openness to his plan in the U.S. and other countries.

Mr. Olmert has said that Tuesday's election is a referendum on his plan to withdraw from large parts of the West Bank and to dismantle many settlements. At the same time, he would hold on to big settlement blocs and attach them to Israel.

Mr. Olmert said he prefers to negotiate with the international community because Israel does not have a Palestinian peace partner following the election of the Islamic militant group Hamas two months ago. Hamas seeks the destruction of the Jewish state.

Mr. Olmert said he will give the new Hamas-led Palestinian government time to moderate its position. If it does not, then Israel would establish final borders unilaterally along the route of the West Bank security barrier.

Hawkish former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is running against Mr. Olmert, says the withdrawal plan is a reward for terrorism.

"These are not defensible borders," Netanyahu said in a parallel Israel Radio interview. "This will only bring Hamas and terrorism to the center of the country." Netanyahu is running on the slogan, "Tough on Hamas," but it has not helped him bridge a wide gap in the polls, which show Mr. Olmert winning by a landslide.

Such a victory would give Mr. Olmert a mandate to redraw the map of Israel and reshape the conflict with the Palestinians.

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