Israel will draw border, build new wall, says Ehud Olmert

Israel will determine its border with the West Bank in the absence of negotiations with the Palestinians, and then it will build a wall and move all settlers to the Israeli side, acting prime minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview published Friday.

Olmert told the Yediot Ahronot daily that if the Palestinians "prefer to be dragged into the axis of evil of Iran," then Israel will change the path of its separation barrier in the West Bank according to national consensus and "Israelis will not live on the other side of the barrier."

Olmert also threatened to assassinate incoming Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas if he is involved in terrorism.

In interviews with other Israeli newspapers, published Thursday, Olmert said Israel would determine its borders by 2010, setting a deadline for the first time for what would appear to be a large-scale unilateral withdrawal from much of the West Bank.

Olmert, facing elections on March 28, said the current barrier, still under construction after more than three years, is a "security fence." The new one would be Israel's border with the West Bank, he said.

He told the paper that he would enter into dialogue with settler leaders to try to get them to agree to the new line, moving settlers from outlying areas into settlement blocs he plans to incorporate into Israel.

In the earlier interviews, Olmert said he would keep Gush Etzion and Maaleh Adumim, near Jerusalem, and Ariel, deep in the West Bank, as well as maintaining control over the Jordan River Valley, the line between Jordan and the West Bank.

Even with these areas under Israeli control, the plan would mean a pullout from most of the West Bank and removal of dozens of settlements.

Olmert, whose Kadima Party is the front-runner in March 28 elections, has been increasingly forthcoming about his agenda in recent days to stop a gradual slide in the polls.

Polls published Thursday showed Kadima with a wide lead over its two main rivals, the moderate Labor and hawkish Likud. But since the Kadima founder, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was felled by a massive stroke Jan. 4, Kadima's numbers have been slowly dropping.

The latest polls showed Kadima with about 38 seats of the 120 in the parliament, while Labor was winning about 19 and Likud 17, reports the AP.

I.L.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team