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Olmert nixes multi-stage West Bank withdrawal

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    Last update - 09:40 01/06/2006 Olmert nixes multi-stage West Bank withdrawal http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/722026.html By Aluf Benn The rate at which the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2006
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      Last update - 09:40 01/06/2006

      Olmert nixes multi-stage West Bank withdrawal
      http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/722026.html
      By Aluf Benn


      The rate at which the convergence plan will be carried out is a matter that
      the government has not yet discussed, but is at the center of planning for
      both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and senior ministers, including Vice Premier
      Shimon Peres. The issue of the rate of convergence is not likely to be
      finalized prior to a meeting between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud
      Abbas and Olmert.

      Olmert is opposed to the implementation of the convergence plan in gradual
      steps and prefers that it be carried out is one broad swoop.

      Arguing that the convergence plan, which calls for the evacuation of
      settlements from the West Bank, involves significant political, economic and
      social costs, Olmert prefers a concentrated, single internal crisis, rather
      than drawn-out crises.

      According to the prime minister's assessment, the international support and
      recognition that Israel is likely to receive in return for a major move will
      be greater than what can be expected from a series of smaller steps.

      Prior to his departure to the U.S. earlier this month, Olmert rejected a
      detailed proposal put forth by Vice Premier Shimon Peres that called for the
      implementation of the convergence plan in six stages.

      According to Peres' proposal, the first stage would include only the
      evacuation of two small settlements in the northern West Bank, with very small
      populations. This would allow Israel to leave a relatively large area to
      Palestinian control, and at the same time enjoy significant international
      support.

      Peres is doubtful as to the government's capabilities of evacuating
      60,000-80,000 settlers in one move, or its ability to sustain the vast costs
      anticipated in such withdrawal.

      According to Peres, if the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, which involved
      8,000 settlers, required a year's preparation and cost some NIS 10 billion,
      the planned evacuation would require a decade and cost as much as NIS 100
      billion.

      Olmert had supported a broader move also in the case of the disengagement from
      Gaza, and told his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, to evacuate 17 settlements in
      the West Bank, instead of the four lifted from northern Samaria. In that case,
      Olmert's motivation was to avoid a series of internal national crises.

      The proposal put forth by Olmert at the time would have effectively removed
      all settlements from the area between Jenin and Ramallah in the West Bank.

      Sharon remained unsure and in the end agreed to the request of the Bush
      administration to only evacuate four settlements in the West Bank in order to
      prevent the possibility of anarchy among the Palestinians. Indeed,
      administration officials had expressed doubts about the ability of the
      Palestinian Authority to absorb such a large area, in which they would be
      responsible for security.

      Justice Minister Haim Ramon says that the considerations on how to implement
      the convergence plan should be based solely on operational requirements. He
      points out that there is little diplomatic or political impact in the rate at
      which the convergence is carried out the minute a final decision is made on
      where the border will stand.
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