Israel has threatened to disengage unilaterally from the internationally backed peace process and take fundamental steps to secure its citizens unless Palestinians show substantive progress on the so-called road map to peace.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon laid out plans on Thursday to remove some settlements in the Palestinian territories and said that construction on a lengthy series of walls and fences separating Israel from the Palestinians would be sped up. Other settlements will be allowed to remain, and will be taken under the security blanket of the Jewish state.
“Israel will not be in all places where we are today,” he said in a speech in Herzliya, broadcast and translated by the BBC. “We will reduce, as much as possible, the number of Israelis that live in the heart of Palestinian territory.”
The settlers who remain in the occupied territories will be protected by Israeli military forces, although Mr. Sharon stressed that the line created by this deployment will create a security line, not a political border.
In his comments, Mr. Sharon bluntly warned Palestinians that they will get less under unilateral action than if they live up to the peace plan.
“This plan will only be implemented if the Palestinians drag their feet and refuse to implement the road map,” he said, adding: “We will not wait for them forever.”