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Israel Briefs US on Unilateral Border Plan


Israel is seeking U.S. approval for a controversial plan that could reshape the Mideast conflict. It could be a hard sell, because the plan bypasses the Palestinian Authority.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Cabinet that he has briefed the U.S. on his plan to draw Israel's final borders unilaterally by 2010. Mr. Olmert has said that, with the recent election of the Islamic militant group Hamas, Israel does not have a Palestinian peace partner.

The plan calls for Israeli withdrawals from parts of the West Bank, while annexing big settlement blocs. Jewish settlers in the evacuated territory would be moved inside the West Bank security barrier, which would become the de-facto border.

Israeli analyst Dan Schueftan:

"The best course of action for Israel is to complete the fence, and to remove Israeli settlements from beyond the fence, and to see that only security considerations dictate our policy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," said Dan Schueftan.

While the international community prefers a negotiated settlement, Israel hopes to persuade the US to accept the plan.

"It will be a matter of expediency, in other words, can you bring the United States to understand that this is helpful and necessary?," he said.

Israel says it cannot negotiate with Hamas, because the group has rejected international demands to renounce violence and recognize the Jewish state. For its part, the U.S. regards Hamas as a terrorist organization.

While President Bush has said that Israel should be allowed to hold on to some settlement blocs, it's not clear how much West Bank territory the U.S. would allow Israel to annex. The U.S. is walking a tightrope, because any annexation would be rejected by its Arab allies. Hamas has rejected the plan as a land grab, and vowed that resistance to the occupation will continue.

Polls show that Mr. Olmert will easily win national elections in two weeks, so the plan is likely to shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It won't resolve the conflict, but Israel believes it can manage the conflict behind defensible borders. But for implementation of the plan, U.S. backing is crucial.

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