JERUSALEM Ñ Israel has accepted a U.S. demand for a Palestinian
state in the entire Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank in 2004.
Israeli officials said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon relayed his agreement
in a series of talks with the Bush administration over the implementation of
the so-called roadmap, an internationally-sponsored plan that envisioned an
interim Palestinian state by the end of 2003 and an entity with permanent
borders in 2005. They said Sharon has accepted a U.S. proposal for an
interim Palestinian state in 2004 regardless of Palestinian Authority
agreement to end the more than three-year-old war and dismantle Palestinian
"This security line will not be a permanent border of the state of
Israel," Sharon said in a televised address on Thursday. "But until the
implementation of the roadmap will be renewed, the military will be spread
along this line. Settlements which will be replaced are such, that in any
possible pattern for future and final agreement, they will not be included
in the territory of the state of Israel."
The Israeli plan would be launched in April 2004, the officials said.
They said this would enable the Bush administration to press the PA to end
insurgency violence and facilitate Israeli withdrawal.
By July 2004, officials said, the United States would prepare for the
establishment of a Palestinian state in the entire Gaza Strip and most of
the West Bank. Israel has pledged its willingness to agree to additional
territorial concessions in any final status negotiations with the
"The proposal for an interim Palestinian state in 2004 was the key U.S.
demand from Israel and was seen by Washington as a measure of our strategic
relationship," an aide to Sharon said. "Sharon hasn't defined the boundaries
of the interim
state, but thinks that if the Palestinians end their attacks on Israel they
could get more territory."
The Israeli pledge called for an evacuation of all Israeli communities
in the Gaza Strip and from large portions of theWest Bank, officials said.
Those communities evacuated in the West Bank would be merged into blocs
Israelis removed from the Gaza Strip would be resettled within the pre-1967
Israeli border. They said Sharon has raised the issue of compensation for
those Israelis evacuated, but the adminstration has not made any
Aides said the prime minister, who intends to present a comprehensive
plan for evacuation to the administration in January, relayed the main
points and some of the text of Thursday's address to the White House. The
aides said the speech was meant to assure President George Bush that his
vision of a Palestinian state would be realized before U.S. elections in
"We will not tell them [United States] of every little thing," Deputy
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said. "We are not small children. But on central
things, we will consult with them."
Officials said that for months Sharon had argued that the implementation
of the roadmap depended on the end to the Palestinian war and the
dismantling of Palestinian insurgency groups, terms outlined by Bush in a
speech in June 2002. They said Sharon's position increasingly rankled the
White House and State Department, which over the last month began to suggest
that the Israeli prime minister was seeking to withdraw his commitment to
Other elements of Sharon's pledge to the United States detailed an
Israeli commitment in June 2003 for a ban on construction in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip. Officials said Sharon's latest pledge would end construction
of new communities or neighborhoods, halt the expropriation of land for
construction and suspend economic incentives to reside in the West Bank and
Gaza Strip. Unauthorized communities or neighborhoods would be dismantled,
In Washington, the administration stressed Sharon's pledge that any
unilateral withdrawal would not block implementation of the roadmap. A
senior administration official said an Israeli unilateral withdrawal could
help set the stage for a Palestinian state within the deadline set by the
roadmap. The official dismissed Sharon's threats of unilaterally redefining
Israel's borders as an attempt to assuage his right-wing supporters.
"Unilateral steps can help the roadmap move forward if they are part of
the roadmap and steps under the roadmap," White
House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
Israeli officials said the first step in the withdrawal plan would be
evacuation of unauthorized outposts in the West Bank, a key demand of
Washington. They said this would take place over the next few weeks and
include the dismantling of inhabited Israeli outposts.
The Defense Ministry will also draft a plan to evacuate Israeli
communities from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, officials said. They said the
evacuation plan would seek to ensure that Israel retains enough of the West
Bank to negotiate a permanent settlement with the Palestinians.
"From the moment the prime minister outlines action and timetable, there
will be preparations for an operational plan for unilateral withdrawal,"
Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim said.