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Israel may fix border by itself, leader says

Associated Press
Published March 6, 2006


WASHINGTON - Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that Israel would take the initiative to separate from the Palestinians if they were not "mature" enough to cooperate in the process.

Olmert, speaking by satellite from Jerusalem to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, said Israel aspired "to ultimately decide on the permanent borders for the state of Israel while separating from the Palestinians."

Israel "will take the initiative if we will find that the Palestinians are not ready, are not prepared, or not mature enough to be able to make the necessary adjustments within themselves in order to be ready for this challenge," Olmert added.

Border-setting is the key agenda of the Israeli leader's Kadima Party, which holds a commanding lead ahead of the March 28 parliamentary vote.

Earlier Sunday, a top political Olmert ally said the prime minister plans to embark on another unilateral West Bank withdrawal immediately after forming Israel's next government.

Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet security service, told Israel Radio that Olmert also plans to set Israel's final borders within four years if he wins upcoming elections. It was the most explicit statement yet of Olmert's plans.

HAMAS REBUFFS AL-QAIDA: Hamas officials shrugged off the support offered by al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, saying Sunday the Palestinian militant group has a different ideology than the terror network and won election through a moderate approach to Islam.

In a video aired Saturday by Al-Jazeera TV, Ayman al-Zawahri had called for jihad, or holy war, to reclaim Palestinian lands and implied al-Qaida's support for Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel. The Associated Press quoted an unnamed Hamas official in Gaza as saying: "Hamas believes that Islam is completely different to the ideology of Mr. al-Zawahri."