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Former prime minister Ariel Sharon helped shape a new consensus in American attitudes toward the settlement enterprise, to the point where there is now "solid, bipartisan support" for Israel's retention of the major settlement blocs, according to Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
In an interview to be published in Friday's Jerusalem Post, Lieberman goes so far as to indicate that the US might be sympathetic to Israeli annexation of such areas, were Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to implement his "convergence" plan and withdraw unilaterally to the route of the West Bank security barrier.
"I think the prevailing opinion here, particularly now with Hamas having won the elections on the Palestinian side, [is] that the Israeli government will be justified in taking unilateral action to secure defensible borders," Lieberman said.
By contrast, the senator went on, any Israeli attempt to win American support for the permanent retention of the Jordan Valley would be "a harder sell," although there would not be such opposition to the presence there of security personnel.
"The strongest support is for the major settlement blocs. Sharon helped to reshape or form a consensus in the US about this, as well as here [in Israel]," Lieberman said. "Sharon saw a forming consensus about this - a desire to change the status quo, to achieve defensible borders, to take tough steps to do it - but he then deepened and broadened the consensus."