Israel’s incoming Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to meet with President George W. Bush next month when he arrives in Washington on his first official visit as prime minister. While in Washington, Olmert intends to present his strategy for Israel to the Bush Administration, Congressional leadership, and Jewish leaders with the aim of securing their support for his planned moves.
Olmert has dubbed his strategy “the convergence plan.” Convergence is defined by Olmert as a plan to consolidate Israeli settlements in the West Bank into a few concentrated blocs of Israeli communities that will take up no more than 5-10 percent of West Bank territory adjacent to the 1949 armistice lines that made upIsrael’s boundaries from 1949-1967.
The Convergence Plan
Olmert has laid out the following contours of his plan:
- Jewish population concentration. Olmert plans to expel between 50,000-100,000 Israeli civilians from their homes in the West Bank and to destroy the 50-100 communities in which they now live.
- Palestinian territorial contiguity. The areas of the communities set for destruction and the surrounding lands will be abandoned by Israel and thus by default be transferred to Palestinian Authority control. Beyond the settlements, Israel will relinquish its military control over the vast unpopulated areas of the West Bank. After the Israeli military withdrawal, these areas too will be controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Thus, the Israeli withdrawal will establish Palestinian Authority territorial contiguity in the West Bank by geographically connecting all Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank.
- Redeployment of Israeli military forces to limited areas of operations and security zones abutting the 1949 armistice lines. Today, the Israel Defense Forces exercise effective control over the West Bank through the distribution of their forces in the area in a manner that enables Israeli control over the main roads and controlling heights of the West Bank. With the destruction of Israeli civilian communities in the West Bank, IDF forces will redeploy or “converge” to specific garrisons located mainly in immediate proximity to the security barrier that will physically cut-off the settlement blocs and the rest of Israel from the West Bank. Israel may, at least for an interim period, retain a security presence in the Jordan Rift Valley which borders the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
- Static defense through the security barrier. The convergence plan is predicated on the completion of Israel’s security barrier. The final barrier route will include all Israeli communities and blocs of communities that are not destroyed in the convergence plan. As noted above, these areas will comprise some 5-10 percent of the West Bank. With the completion of the displacement of the Israeli citizens from their communities and the destruction of those communities, Israel will declare the barrier route its interim political border. There will be no Israeli civilian presence outside the boundaries of the barrier, although there will likely be residual Israeli military presence outside the boundaries.
- Israeli withdrawal from Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Israel will retreat from and abrogate its claims to sovereignty over a number of Arab neighborhoods located in southern, northern and eastern Jerusalem.