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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday hinted that the settlements of Shilo, Beit El, Ofra and Kedumim would be evacuated under his unilateral withdrawal plan, and said that many other settlements in the West Bank would be also be evacuated.
"Shilo, Beit El, Ofra and Kedumim were always part of the historical Land of Israel, and they always emotionally will be," Olmert said in a conversation with Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel at the Petra Nobel Laureates Conference in Jordan.
"We, Israelis, Jews, firmly and deeply believe that this Land of Israel from the Jordan River to the [Mediterranean] Sea has always been our heritage. We will always have a right to this land. Our history, and not that of the Palestinians, is buried underneath this land," the Prime Minister said.
Israel, Olmert said, would have to make a choice of whether to continue living in places where Israelis would never be separated from the Palestinians and which would make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "endless", or to live in "a part of this land" so that Israelis would be able to live "in partnership" with a contiguous Palestinian state.
Settlers, Olmert added, would have to make a "personal choice" whether they wanted to live in a Jewish state or a Palestinian state. "The settlers can decide they would rather live on this particular piece of land, and that is [their] choice," Olmert said.
Responding to Olmert's comments, Nobel Laureate Robert Aumann, a staunch settlement supporter, told The Jerusalem Post that, given the choice, he would remain on land vacated by Israel in the West Bank under Palestinian sovereignty if his safety was guaranteed by the Palestinian Authority. Aumann, who lives in Jerusalem, added that he would encourage other settlers to do the same. "I will live in a Palestinian state if my life is assured by the Palestinian Authority, and I call on others to do the same if their security is assured. If it cannot be assured, then there is no peace. If we have hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, Arabs living in Israel, and we cannot have Israelis living in the land of the [Palestinian] Authority, then there is no peace," Aumann said.
Challenged by Aumann, who called Olmert's convergence plan a "crime against humanity," Olmert responded that the majority of Israelis were in favor of "painful compromises that would put an end to the conflict."
"I will pull out from territories, not from every inch, I have no commitment to the boundaries [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] Abu Mazen is demanding [a withdrawal to the 1967 lines]. This we will negotiate and I will make compromises. There will be blocs of settlements that cannot be evacuated. And there will be many, many settlements vacated by Israel which would give the Palestinians territorial contiguity in which they can realize their dream of a Palestinian state," Olmert said.
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