Olmert: Ariel 'integral part of Israel'

Weeks before elections, building starts in E1 between Ma'ale Adumim and J'lem.

olmert in ariel 298 88 (photo credit: GPO)
olmert in ariel 298 88
(photo credit: GPO)
In a move widely interpreted as a play for right-leaning voters, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert went to Ariel Tuesday and declared that the Ariel settlement bloc would remain a part of Israel forever." Olmert, accompanied by Defense Minster Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, National Infrastructures Minister Roni Bar-On, Shimon Peres, security fence planner Col. (Res.) Danny Tirza, and Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman, toured the settlement and parts of the security fence just a few days after saying in weekend interviews that he would draw Israel's permanent borders by 2010. He made clear repeatedly during his visit that this settlement of 17,000 people, as well as a number of satellite communities, would be inside those borders, and that there would be "territorial integrity" between the Ariel bloc and the Green Line. "I have held a number of meetings with the defense minister and the defense establishment related to the Ariel bloc," Olmert said. "The Ariel bloc will be an integral part of the state of Israel in any situation." In addition to getting briefed on the planned route of the security fence, Olmert also held a meeting at the College of Judea and Samaria with the heads of the university. Olmert repeated what he said during his weekend interviews, that he hoped to set Israel's permanent borders by 2010. "In 2010 Israel will look different, and we will not be in places where there is no benefit being there," he said. Olmert also repeated that before entering diplomatic negotiations with "external elements," he wanted to hold an "internal dialogue, first of all with the [Jewish] population in Judea and Samaria." Olmert said that while there may be differences of opinion and disagreements, "we will never give up on holding a serious and genuine dialogue" in order to try and reduce the gaps inside the country. Olmert also pledged that in any arrangement Israel would "act everywhere and in every way" to provide for the state's security.