updated 3/14/2006 4:03:06 AM ET 2006-03-14T09:03:06

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that the West Bank settlement of Ariel and smaller neighboring settlements will eventually become part of Israel.

Olmert’s visit to the hilltop settlement of around 17,000 people, two weeks before Israeli general elections, appeared aimed at appeasing Jewish settlers after he declared in newspaper interviews over the weekend that he plans to withdraw from large parts of the West Bank and to draw Israel’s final borders in the next four years.

“The Ariel bloc will be an integral part of Israel, whatever happens,” he said. “Ariel is Israel.”

In the interviews, Olmert also said he would draw the border in coordination with the international community. The United States is opposed to including Ariel on the Israeli side of Israel’s West Bank separation barrier.

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