Israel’s Kadima split over more West Bank pullouts

Israel’s Kadima split over more West Bank pullouts

JERUSALEM – Major divisions emerged yesterday within Israel’s ruling Kadima party over plans for a new round of unilateral pullouts from settlements in the occupied West Bank after this month’s general election.

After one of the party’s top candidates, former security service chief Avi Dichter, said Kadima would immediately start working on a new “disengagement” if it won a March 28 ballot, two other big guns warned they were against any repeat of last year’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The dovish former premier Shimon Peres, second on the party’s list of candidates after Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said the government would be better off trying to negotiate with the Palestinians within the framework of the internationally backed roadmap peace plan rather than go it alone.”I do not support the idea of unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank,” said Peres.”We should meet with the Palestinians and negotiate with them on the basis of the roadmap.”Education Minister Meir Sheetrit also said Kadima should remain committed to the roadmap which targets the creation of a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel but has made little progress in the three years since its launch.”We want to fix the borders of Israel and are ready to make significant concessions but I am against unilateral withdrawals,” he said.Olmert has already indicated he will make fixing the final borders of the Jewish state his top priority after the election which polls show should be won easily by Kadima.While Olmert continues to pay lip service to the roadmap, he is widely expected to embark on a new round of unilateral pullouts albeit while cementing Israel’s control over the blocs where the majority of Jewish settlers live.Dichter, number five on Kadima’s list, said over the weekend that work on a new round of “civilian disengagement” would begin immediately after the election, which would involve the uprooting of some settlers, but that control of the evacuated areas would not be handed over to the Palestinian Authority.In comments to reporters late on Sunday, Dichter also poured cold water on the roadmap, calling it “obsolete” in the absence of a Palestinian partner.Olmert has said he will have no dealings with a Palestinian Authority led by the Islamist movement Hamas which swept elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on January 25.- Nampa-AFPThe dovish former premier Shimon Peres, second on the party’s list of candidates after Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said the government would be better off trying to negotiate with the Palestinians within the framework of the internationally backed roadmap peace plan rather than go it alone.”I do not support the idea of unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank,” said Peres.”We should meet with the Palestinians and negotiate with them on the basis of the roadmap.”Education Minister Meir Sheetrit also said Kadima should remain committed to the roadmap which targets the creation of a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel but has made little progress in the three years since its launch.”We want to fix the borders of Israel and are ready to make significant concessions but I am against unilateral withdrawals,” he said.Olmert has already indicated he will make fixing the final borders of the Jewish state his top priority after the election which polls show should be won easily by Kadima.While Olmert continues to pay lip service to the roadmap, he is widely expected to embark on a new round of unilateral pullouts albeit while cementing Israel’s control over the blocs where the majority of Jewish settlers live.Dichter, number five on Kadima’s list, said over the weekend that work on a new round of “civilian disengagement” would begin immediately after the election, which would involve the uprooting of some settlers, but that control of the evacuated areas would not be handed over to the Palestinian Authority.In comments to reporters late on Sunday, Dichter also poured cold water on the roadmap, calling it “obsolete” in the absence of a Palestinian partner.Olmert has said he will have no dealings with a Palestinian Authority led by the Islamist movement Hamas which swept elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on January 25.- Nampa-AFP

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