Likud Knesset member and former Prisoner of Zion, Natan Sharansky, has said in a radio interview that President George Bush will try to discourage Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from pushing his plan for carrying out further Israeli unilateral withdrawals in Judea and Samaria and the forcible removal of 70,000 Jewish men women and children from homes and businesses. Olmert will be meeting Bush in Washington next week. Sharansky added that the timing of Olmerts plan is very unfavorable for the President, whose popularity has sunk in recent months (Arutz 7, May 19).
Additionally, a report in Yediot Ahronot, Israels largest circulation newspaper, citing senior sources in the US government, also says that the Bush Administration will not support Olmerts plan for further unilateral withdrawals. The American National Security Council has prepared a list of questions on the subject that will be presented to Olmert during his visit. Also, the European Union (EU) has made an unequivocal declaration that in its view, unilateral steps are unacceptable. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said at the end of a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that, It is unacceptable that an international border be drawn up unilaterally (Yediot Ahronot, May 19).
According to a senior Bush administration official, the US questions for Olmert will deal with issues of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) personnel that may remain to the west of the security fence, negotiations with Jordan on border issues, protection of holy sites after Israel withdraws and the legal status of the new lines. The administration official estimated that there were at least two-dozen questions regarding Olmerts plan that were still not answered. The official was quoted as saying that the Gaza withdrawal was relatively easy because of its clear borders but that a plan for a unilateral withdrawal in Judea and Samaria was extremely complicated (Jerusalem Post, May 19).