Israel’s Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert plans to draw the country’s border with the Palestinians by November 2008, ahead of a previous target, an Israeli newspaper reported on Monday.
Olmert, who previously gave a deadline of 2010, now wants to make sure his border plan is completed before President Bush leaves office in early 2009, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said.
Olmert won a parliamentary election on March 28 on a campaign pledge to withdraw from swathes of the occupied West Bank while expanding several large Jewish settlement blocs in a unilateral move to set a frontier unilaterally, in the absence of peace talks.
Yedioth Ahronoth said Yoram Turbovitch, a top Olmert aide, said in talks with smaller parties on forming a governing coalition, that the Israeli withdrawal “must be done by November 2008."
Kadima’s spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.
Borders may not be 'final'
Palestinians object to Israel’s plan for fear it would leave Israel in control of large chunks of the West Bank that could deny them enough land for a viable state.
Olmert has said these borders would be permanent, but in an interview with Time magazine this week he suggested there would be room for changes later.
Asked whether the lines set would be Israel’s political borders, Olmert replied: “At least for a period of time ... I guess if at some point afterward there will be negotiations to finalize everything, and in order to reach a comprehensive peace, then maybe some adjustments”.
Olmert’s centrist Kadima party launched formal talks to form a government with smaller parties on Sunday. An aide said on Monday they hoped to complete formation of a new ruling coalition by the end of April.
“I imagine that the matter will be concluded by the end of this month”, Ram Caspi, an attorney involved in the talks, told Israel Radio.
Kadima, which won 29 seats in the 120 member parliament, has reached a preliminary deal with the leftist Labor Party with 19 seats to be a senior coalition partner.
Olmert has sought to persuade several other parties to join for a majority, including two religious parties, a seven-member pensioners party and a rightist immigrant party called Yisrael Beitenu, which would give him a total of more than 80 seats.