Ehud Olmert declared himself the new Israeli Prime Minister in the early morning hours of Wednesday, adding that he would go forward with a plan for full apartheid with the Palestinians, with the Israeli Annexation Wall separating the two peoples along a border unilaterally declared by Israel.
Olmert, who has been the acting Israeli prime minister since Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke in January, earlier outlined the plan as part of his election campaign, saying, "We will take the Jordan Valley, the Ma’ale Adumim bloc, and of course Ariel will always remain a part of Israel" — referring to the names of large Israeli settlements built illegally (according to international law) on occupied Palestinian land over the last 40 years. Israel captured the West Bank and Jerusalem, home to about 2.5 million Palestinians, in the 1967 Mideast War, and has occupied it, and transferred 450,000 Israeli citizens to live there (in the West Bank and East Jerusalem), in the 40 years since.
The choice was painful, Olmert said, but if Israel did not act quickly and divide themselves completely from the Palestinians, the Arab population would soon outnumber the Jewish population in Israel. "It would lead to the loss of Israel as a Jewish state," he said.
Tuesday’s vote marked the first time the leading candidate has laid out a concrete vision for the future of the West Bank. After last summer’s so-called "disengagement" from the Gaza Strip, in which 6,000 Israeli settlers were paid to leave their homes built illegally on occupied Palestinian land, much of the Israeli military force that had been stationed in the Gaza Strip moved to the West Bank, where 250,000 Israeli settlers live illegally on occupied Palestinian land. The number of settlers in the West Bank increased by 8,000 last year, so that, despite the ‘disengagement’ of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, the net number of settlers living on Palestinian land actually increased last year, according to the Israeli human rights group B’tselem.
Tuesday’s Israeli election, which had record low turnouts, particularly among Arab-Israelis, who expressed an overwhelming sentiment that there was no one for them to vote for among the candidates presented, became almost a referendum for Olmert’s platform of apartheid after he presented his plan so openly last month.
"This is perhaps the most important election in all of Israel’s life," said Mordechai Aviv, 76, of Jerusalem. "We are going to separate between us and the Arabs.
With most of the votes counted, Olmert’s Kadima Party appears set to win, but with a much smaller lead than expected. Olmert has said he would only invite parties that back his plan to join his government, but he might be forced to seek other allies if Kadima wins fewer seats than expected. Labor, which favors territorial concessions, was expected to win about 20 seats, and Likud, which favors a full takeover of the Palestinian land and expulsion of the Palestinian residents, was polling at 14.
Under Olmert’s plan, Israel’s partially completed Annexation Wall, which annexes 20% of the West Bank, including all of East Jerusalem, for Israel, will become the new border within four years. Israeli settlers would be moved from some settlements into other settlements on the ‘Israeli side’ of the Wall, and the Palestinian areas would be divided into enclaves completely controlled by Israeli military forces.
"We will determine the line of the security fence, and we will make sure that no Jewish settlements will be left on the other side of the fence. Drawing the final borders is our obligation as leaders and as a society," Olmert wrote Tuesday in an op-ed piece published in the Yediot Ahronot daily.
China, Russia, and a number of other countries have criticized Israel for acting unilaterally to set their border and continuing settlement expansion, even while Hamas has held to its end of a ceasefire declared last February. During the ‘ceasefire’ period, Hamas claimed responsibility for killing one Israeli, while Israeli forces have killed over 220 Palestinians, including 44 children.
Since the state of Israel was created in 1947, the state has never declared its borders, and has continued to expand throughout Palestinian land, expelling the Palestinian residents and allowing Israeli settlers to live there. As a result of the 1948 and subsequent expulsions, Palestinians are now the largest refugee population in the world.