U.S. Endorses Israel Border Ultimatum
After initial skepticism, U.S. officials have endorsed an Israeli ultimatum that would unilaterally draw borders between it and the Palestinian Authority if a negotiated settlement is not reached by 2010.
AP’s Amy Teibel:
Before Olmert arrived Sunday, the Bush administration had urged him to negotiate with the moderate Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and bypass the new Hamas leadership. Hamas, branded a terrorist group by the U.S., rejects Israel’s right to exist and has refused to renounce violence. A negotiated solution is the preferred route both for Bush and Olmert, though the president found merit to the prime minister’s alternative approach. “These ideas could lead to a two-state solution if a pathway to progress on the road map is not opened in the period ahead,” Bush said.
Olmert, making his first visit to the U.S. since winning election in March, said he intended to “exhaust every possibility to promote peace with the Palestinians according to the road map.” “I extend my hand in peace to Mahmoud Abbas, the elected president of the Palestinian Authority. I hope he will take the necessary steps which he committed to in order to move forward,” Olmert said. But, he warned, “We cannot wait indefinitely for the Palestinians to change. … If we come to the conclusion that no progress is possible, we will be compelled to try a different route.”
In Jerusalem, a senior Cabinet member close to Olmert said if Hamas does not recognize Israel and renounce violence within six months Israel will move ahead with plans to unilaterally draw its final borders by 2010. “If these things don’t happen, we won’t wait for years, but rather we will wait until the end of this year,” Haim Ramon told Israel Radio. “This will be a year of diplomacy.” “First negotiations, and after the negotiations, if it doesn’t succeed and it becomes clear that there is no (Palestinian) partner, we will move ahead with the consolidation plan,” Ramon said.
On Capitol Hill, the House voted Tuesday to ban U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority and to bar diplomatic contacts with Hamas. The Senate is considering a less restrictive bill. Bush opposes the legislation on the ground that it goes too far.
This move adds pressure to the Palestinians to grow up and govern as responsible international actors. A distinct border and quasi-state status is likely a necessary precursor to honest negotiations, since the borderless Palestinian Authority can always blame rogue actors.