In an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Israeli Prime minister Ariel Sharon affirmed that his cabinet continue to expand West Bank settlements, despite international objections.
‘There, we are building 1,000 apartments in Betar Illit and hundreds of apartments in Ma’aleh Admumim,’ Sharon said.
He also said that he will be able to resist international pressure for a further withdrawal from the West Bank ‘the day after’ implementing the disengagement plan.
Concerning the proposed delay of the pullout, Sharon said that the decision will be only considered after discussing the matter with Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz.
Israeli defense ministry and army officials raised questions over expected difficulties if the pullout is delayed for three weeks. Army complains came after the political echelon in Israel declared intentions on a likely pullout delay due to religious reasons.
Sharon explained that he supports delaying the pullout and moving Gaza settlers en masse to Nitzanim in order to make the disengagement easier and help to mend the rift in the nation.
Gush Katif settlers has approached Sharon with a proposal to move en masse to Nitzanim, a natural reserve in southern Israel. Residents of the area and environmentalists strongly oppose the proposal.
Sharon also said that Israel would insist after the pullout that the Palestinian Authority meet all its security obligations, and dismantles the armed resistance groups as a condition for moving ahead with the road map peace plan.
Sharon explained that the demographic problem had played a decisive role in deciding to implement the disengagement plan and in defining the route of the separation wall.
‘Had we wanted to build the fence on the border of the security zone, known today as Area C, the fence would have been a lot further to the east,’ he said. ‘But such a move would have left hundreds of thousands of Palestinians inside the fence, and these Palestinians would have eventually joined forces with Arab Israelis, and then it would certainly have been a major problem.’ Sharon said.