Ariel Sharon planned more withdrawals, former PM Olmert says

Ehud Olmert confirms that Ariel Sharon died before a planned major disengagement in Judea and Samaria.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert confirmed that the 2005 Israeli decision to remove all 21 settlements from the Gaza Strip along with several more in Judea and Samaria was the first part of a broader disengagement plan planned by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel Hayom reported Thursday.

In a preview of an extensive interview with Olmert to be published Friday in Israel Hayom‘s weekend edition, the man who succeeded Sharon said that two weeks after the implementation of the destruction of the settlements in Gush Katif in 2005, Olmert told Sharon he would present another disengagement plan to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The plan would show that the Gaza disengagement was only a prelude to a similar large removal of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.

Olmert, who was Sharon’s deputy at the time, said that the prime minister did not like the idea but did not prevent him from presenting it to Rice and then reporting on it upon returning from the United States.

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Sharon fell into a coma at the end of 2005 and never recovered. Before being hospitalized, he set up a committee with then-Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to determine the security, economic, legal and political framework of a further withdrawal in Judea and Samaria using the lessons learned from the Gaza disengagement.

Olmert took over as prime minister when Sharon became incapacitated and produced the “realignment plan” for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from large areas of Judea and Samaria.

“While the disengagement from Gaza was an independent move, it was meant to eventually fit in with another move, based on the road map, in an effort to avoid a deadlock [in the negotiations],” said Sharon’s bureau chief, Attorney Dov Weisglass. “The idea was to pursue a similar move in the West Bank.”

However, Sharon’s stroke hit the plan like a power blackout, Weisglass said.

The U.S. chief peace negotiator, Dennis Ross, said Sharon “clearly planned an additional withdrawal in the West Bank.”

Ross told Israel Hayom that Sharon “was convinced that the only way to preserve what Israel needed long-term in the West Bank and ensure Israel would not become a bi-national state was to carry out a limited further withdrawal.”