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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he intends to finalize plans for a large pullout from parts of the West Bank within the next 18 months.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Olmert said the aim of his planned meeting with President Bush next month will be to secure international support for the pullout, including financial assistance.
"The State of Israel will change the face of the region," Olmert said of his plan. "I will not miss this opportunity."
Olmert rejected the possibility of sharing control of Jerusalem and its main holy sites with a future Palestinian state, though he left open the option that some Arab neighborhoods surrounding the capital could eventually fall under Palestinian sovereignty. "Dividing Jerusalem will not bring peace, only more fighting," he said.
According to Olmert, the convergence plan is the only alternative to continued fighting. Physical separation from the Palestinians, he said, will reduce daily friction and violence.
Olmert reiterated that he doesn't plan to hold a national referendum or other vote to seek additional legitimacy for the pullout. Last month's election, he said, proved a majority of Israelis share his vision. He also said he is watching closely to see if Hamas moderates its view toward Israel. If that doesn't happen, he said, Israel will act unilaterally. "I can't wait forever," he said.
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