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Israel Says it Will Set Final Border After Elections



08 February 2006

Israel's acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, says Israel will keep major settlement blocs in the West Bank in any agreement reached with the Palestinians.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israel's Channel Two News that Israel will "separate from much of the Palestinian population that lives in the West Bank."

Mr. Olmert says Israelis will gather themselves into main settlement blocs and preserve a united Jerusalem. He says large Israeli settlements in the West Bank where about 100,000 Israelis live will stay under Israeli control.

Speaking in his first television interview since assuming the office of prime minister following Ariel Sharon's stroke, Mr. Olmert also said Israel cannot give up control of its eastern border, indicating that Israel intends to keep control of the Jordan Valley.

At the same time, Israel's acting prime minister says Israel will withdraw from some territories in the West Bank.

Mr. Olmert says Israel's future border is not the one it holds today, saying that he believes that on the other side of what will eventually be Israel's final border, there will be a Palestinian state.

Recent polls show Mr. Olmert's position is popular with Israeli voters, putting him in a favored position to win general elections on March 28 as the head of the Kadima Party, formed last year by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, before he suffered a massive stroke and cerebral hemorrhage. Mr. Olmert's views are almost identical to those expressed by Mr. Sharon.

Mr. Olmert says he hopes to pursue the internationally backed "Roadmap Peace Plan" with the Palestinians. It calls for Israel to stop building settlements, and for the Palestinians to stop attacking Israel and pursue a negotiated joint settlement leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state.



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