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Israeli PM Visits Europe


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is beginning his first visit to Europe, where he will meet with British and French leaders. The future of the West Bank and Iran's nuclear program are topping the agenda.

Prime Minister Olmert will try to sell his plan for unilateral Israeli withdrawals from most of the West Bank to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac. Under the plan, Israel would annex major settlement blocs and draw its final borders by 2010.

Mr. Olmert says that with the election of the Islamic militant group Hamas, which seeks Israel's destruction, there is no Palestinian peace partner.

"We will not negotiate, and we will not deal with a Palestinian Authority that will be dominated by a terrorist organization," said Ehud Olmert.

Britain and France have expressed deep reservations about the plan. They believe Israel should seek a negotiated peace instead of taking unilateral steps. They also fear that the borders Israel is drawing will not give the Palestinians enough territory for a viable state.

Europe has often been highly critical of Israeli actions toward the Palestinians, and therefore, Israel has preferred to coordinate policy with its closest friend, the United States. The Israeli public widely regards Europe as pro-Arab, but Mr. Olmert says he believes he needs European, as well as American support to implement his pullout plan.

He is also seeking a tougher European stand on Iran's nuclear program. Israel has grown increasingly alarmed about Iran's intentions since October, when the Iranian president threatened to wipe the Jewish state "off the map."

"No one can ignore the fact that, while he is talking about the liquidation of the state of Israel, he's also fighting in order to possess non-conventional capabilities that are aimed against the state of Israel," he said.

Mr. Olmert said he hopes that the U.S. and Europe can stop the Iranian nuclear program. If they don't, Israel has made it clear that there is a military option.