Daily Israel Report

Yisrael Beitenu Doesn?t Rule Out Unilateral Withdrawal

MK Yuri Stern a member of Yisrael Beitenu’s negotiating team, said that under certain conditions, his party would support further withdrawals from Jewish towns and territories in Judea and Samaria.
By Scott Shiloh
First Publish: 4/9/2006, 3:23 PM / Last Update: 4/9/2006, 3:58 PM

Stern proposes that the emerging guidelines for the Kadima-led government should state that “Israel will retain most of the territory and most of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.”

Echoing his colleagues in Kadima, as well as those on the left, Stern added, “We’re interested in borders that will receive international recognition.”

In an interview with Channel 2 television, Yisrael Beitenu head Avigdor Lieberman, outlined the circumstances under which his party would oppose another unilateral withdrawal. “If it will be a withdrawal with no benefit, no compensation and no improvement in the security situation, then we will not be partners," he said.

Negotiations for establishing a ruling coalition of parties headed by Kadima and Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, got off to rocky start this morning, as prospective coalition partners, particularly the Labor party and Shas, began setting forth their conditions for joining the government.

Most of these parties' key demands are budgetary, rather than political, athough the Labor party has been pushing strongly for an explicit declaration that Kadima will implement further unilateral withdrawals if negotiations with the Palestinian Authority on permanent borders prove futile.

While the Labor party has stated repeatedly that it will not join a coalition with the right wing Yisrael Beitenu, the latter’s position of not ruling out the possibility of another unilateral withdrawal might serve to soften Labor’s opposition to sitting at the same table as the boisterous Avigdor Lieberman.

Olmert’s said in his victory speech that he was planning on giving up parts of the land of Israel, despite lack of agreement with the PA, but specifically omitted mentioning his “convergence plan” by name in order to enable flexibility in coalition talks.

On previous occasions, Olmert has said that under his plan, dozens of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria would be uprooted in order to enable Israel to establish a new border that would run parallel to the multi-billion dollar security barrier Israel is gradually completing roughly along the pre-1967 cease-fire lines.

David Glass, an attorney who heads Shas’ negotiating team, said that regarding issues relating to Judea and Samaria, Kadima representatives referred him to Olmert’s victory speech.

Glass said he would bring the speech to the attention of Shas leader, MK Eli Yishai, who would present it to Shas’ council of Torah sages, headed by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The council will ultimately decide whether the Shas party, which opposes further unilateral withdrawals, can live at least temporarily, with the obscure details of Olmert’s speech.