olmert 298 88 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israel's permanent borders will be set within the next four years, a period during which construction will also begin in the controversial E1 section between Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday.
Olmert also said he had no intention of meeting Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas after the elections.
Olmert said he was opposed to "artificial distinctions." "The PA is one authority, the minute the dominant force in the PA is Hamas, then why [meet]?" he asked. "We do not meet as two graduates from the same high school. There can only be a reason for a meeting if it serves a political purpose. If the government is a Hamas one, what political purpose can it serve?"
Olmert said he intended within the next four years to "get to Israel's permanent borders, whereby we will completely separate from the majority of the Palestinian population and preserve a large and stable Jewish majority in Israel." This was the first time that Olmert has put a time frame on what he has said in the past was Israel's most pressing issue: determining its final borders.
During the interview, which will appear in its entirety in Friday's Post, Olmert refused to get drawn into a detailed discussion of where he envisioned the borders would run, saying only that his broad guidelines included Gush Etzion, the "Jerusalem envelope," Ma'aleh Adumim, the "Ariel region" and the "Jordan River as a security border."
He pointedly did not sign off on remarks made Saturday night by Avi Dichter, No. 5 on Kadima's list, that the settlement blocs that Israel would retain also included the Jordan Valley, Ofra-Beit El, Karnei Shomron-Kedumim, and Kiryat Arba-Hebron.
Olmert made clear that Dichter's remarks should not be seen on par with the broad guidelines that he himself set. "Dichter is perhaps a candidate to be in the next government, depending on how things develop, but he is not poised to be prime minister," Olmert said.
Olmert's pledge to build E1 within the next four years came six months after he became the first senior Israeli official to publicly confirm that Israel had frozen the controversial building plans in the wake of American pressure.
The long-planned construction of 3,500 housing units on the outskirts of Ma'aleh Adumim, as part of a decade-old government proposal to link the suburban Jerusalem settlement to the capital, has been subject to fierce Palestinian and international condemnation and to American resistance.
Olmert's chief political rival, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, has repeatedly used the freeze on building in E1 to call into question the government's determination to strengthen both Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs.
Olmert said that if he won the election, he would wait a "reasonable" amount of time to see whether Hamas would recognize Israel, disavow terrorism and disarm, accept previous PA-Israel agreements and act according to the guidelines of the road map.
"We will wait, but I don't intend to wait forever," he said. "If after a reasonable time passes it becomes clear that the PA is not willing to accept these principles, we will need to begin to act."
Olmert said that before acting to draw the borders, however, he would hold an "internal dialogue inside Israel to get to a definition that reflects a wide national consensus about what need to be Israel's permanent borders. I intend to speak to everyone, and first and foremost the public that lives in the territories."
In parallel, he said, he hoped to have a dialogue with the international community to shape an international atmosphere that would "create a change in the PA." If that failed, he said, Israel would determine the border, but do so with as wide an internal consensus, and with as much international support, as possible.
Olmert said that the security fence would eventually be moved - eastward in some locations, westward in others - to become the country's border in accordance with the country's interests.
He said that once a border is determined, Israel would "not lose any option for security action in line with our needs in the fight against terrorism, which is to a large degree the case today in Gaza."
Olmert said there were currently no restraints on IDF actions to prevent terror from the Gaza Strip, and that he didn't think there was a need to introduce IDF ground troops into the area.
"The US doesn't restrain us or encourage us. We worry about Israel's security, we don't take advice from the US on what to do," he said. "We do what we think we must, according to our understanding and depending on the circumstances."