Possible 'Failure' of Road Map Still a Year A Way

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israel's judgment as to whether the Palestinians have failed to implement the U.S.-backed road map peace plan is still a year away, an Israeli source said on Tuesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon set off alarm bells in Washington last week when he suggested that if the Palestinians did not fulfill their commitments to the road map, Israel might be forced to make unilateral moves for security reasons.

Sharon said that he would announce more details in a speech he is scheduled to give on Thursday at a conference near Tel Aviv. Israeli officials refused on Tuesday to comment on the content of the speech.

The Hebrew daily Ma'ariv said that part of Sharon's plan included dismantling all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, where some 7,000 Israelis live among more than one million Palestinians. The paper also said that isolated settlements in the West Bank would be evacuated.

One diplomatic source said Sharon would talk about terror, the road map, and the eventual possibility of unilateral moves if the road map fails - but that is still a ways off, he said.

"[We're] still a year away from the [possible] eventual failure of the road map," said the source. "If in six to 12 months time we see that things are not moving, [then Israel might consider unilateral moves]."

The source said Israel is still committed to the road map and that a meeting between Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart Ahmed Qureia is still planned.

The Americans are aware of everything that Israel is considering or doing, he added.
But Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday that Israel would not wait forever and he recommended making one large unilateral move instead of a few painful ones.

"Of course, my preferred option is a political settlement, but we cannot wait for it indefinitely," Olmert told the Herzlyia Conference.

"One must hope that the Palestinian government will succeed in gaining control of the state, but -- failing that -- Israel must undertake an immediate, grand, one-sided move.

The pain will, in any case, be great, which is why Israel should not turn to small moves, but must act at once," Olmert said.

Washington has reacted sharply to the idea of possible unilateral moves on Israel's part.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom met in Washington on Monday with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, who reiterated the government's opposition to any unilateral moves.

Shalom said he reassured the Americans that no decisions had been made on one-sided moves and no moves would be made without first coordinating them with Washington.

"Nothing has yet been decided regarding unilateral steps, and nothing has yet been said," Shalom said that he told Rice and Cheney.

"Regarding unilateral steps, anything, if it is done, will be done in coordination with the United States. This government is one whose coordination with the United States is full and complete," Shalom said in a radio interview on Tuesday.

Shalom said Israel promised to remove all unauthorized outposts as prescribed for Israel in the road map. He also said that the controversial security fence could be removed "but the loss of human lives cannot.""

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