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On his last day of consciousness, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon studied a new map showing potential borders that would allow for both a Palestinian state and for as many settlers as possible to remain in Judea and Samaria, Kadima politician Otniel Schneller has told The Jerusalem Post.
He knows this, he said, because he was the map's maker.
Schneller, a religious settler from Ma'aleh Michmash turned centrist politician, said he was commissioned by Sharon to create a plan for Israel's future borders following the Gaza withdrawal last summer.
The two men meet in Jerusalem for more than an hour late on the afternoon of January 4, said Schneller. "I showed him my plan. He said, 'It is very interesting. I would like to go with this principle and to work on this plan. Otni, I would like to meet you next week,'" Schneller recalled the PM saying.
"We finished our meeting at 4:30 p.m.," he said. The massive stroke Sharon suffered later that day cut short any future discussions about the map.
It is this blue print for "maximum settlements and minimum area" that Schneller, who will be a Kadima MK in the new Knesset, is using as a basis to work with others in his party on a new borders plan.
Israel would retain the large settlement blocs, Jordan Valley, all of Jerusalem - including the Old City and the rest of east Jerusalem - and holy sites such as Rachel's Tomb on the outskirts of Bethlehem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, said Schneller. "Jerusalem will remain united," he said.
However the plan does call for Palestinian villages and towns around Jerusalem such as Abu Dis to be given to the Palestinians.
Schneller shied away from giving precise figures on how many settlements would be destroyed and what percentage of the West Bank would be given to the Palestinians under the plan.
Implementation would be done hand and hand with construction of the security fence, said Schneller. He said that the fence was temporary and did not represent the border line.
"We would like to finish the process in 2010," said Schneller, but it's a mistake to focus on timetables. What's important is the process and the results, and not the schedule, he said.
"Step by step, we will build a new concept," he said.
Ideally, he said, the process would include negotiations with the settlers. For those who would need to relocate, their new homes would be ready before they moved, he said. The relocation process would be done in stages, very slowly and with full negotiations with the settlers, he said.
It would involve "a dialogue that is really a dialogue," he said.
"I believe we will keep most of the settlements and most of the settlers" while allowing space for the Palestinians to build a state when they are ready to stop engaging in terror.
But in the interim, he said, "It's ridiculous to wait for the other side to be ready to talk."
Schneller, who was director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip from 1983-1986 and headed the Likud branches in Judea and Samaria, said that already in the late 1980s he had became convinced a different approach was needed to solve the issues of the territories.
He participated in negotiations with the Palestinians under the Oslo process and in the failed Camp David talks in 2000. He said he was more comfortable with the plan he was drafting than with the one presented at Camp David.
As a veteran resident of Ma'aleh Michmash, the issue of the territories is very personal to him. When he came there with his family 25 years ago there was nothing there, he said. "There was no road, no water and no electricity," he said.
Now that the community is well developed, residents there and in other settlements live with a sense of uncertainty, he said. The issue of whether or not they have a future there comes up all the time, he said.
"I pray more than three times a day that we will stay there," said Schneller. But if there are going to be territorial concessions than as a settler he wants to be part of the decision-making process about what portion of the land will be kept, he said. What's important is that it be done with a broad-based consensus, so that the settlements that remain become an accepted part of Israel, he said.
With this in mind he would like to see parties from the Right and the Left in the governing coalition.
"I really want to see [Avigdor] Lieberman [of Israel Beiteinu] in the coalition and I would be more than happy to see the Likud in the coalition," he said.
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