Convergence Plan

This concept describes the objectives and components of the mid-2006 political plan of the Israeli government to unilaterally withdraw from territory in the West Bank.

Definition

The concept Convergence Plan draws the outlines of the political declaration of intent announced by acting Prime Minister Olmert (3/06) on the eve of the elections to the 17th Knesset.

Background

The Convergence Plan was first presented to the Israeli public by the acting PM prior to the general elections in Israel.1 The government’s Basic Guidelines2 present Convergence as the main political plan to be implemented during this governmental term.3

Content

Similarly to the Disengagement Plan of Ariel Sharon’s Likud government (8/05), the Convergence Plan is based on unilateral steps which Israel intends to undertake in the West Bank with the purpose of decreasing Israeli control over the Palestinian population. Nonetheless, the Convergence Plan is significantly different from the Disengagement Plan, most blatantly in its strengthening and inclusion of three major Jewish settlement blocs beyond the Green Line4.

The main principles of the Convergence Plan which emerge from an analysis of the declarations of acting Prime Minister Olmert are as follows:

Objectives

At the time of initial publication of the Plan, it was made clear that it serves two main goals:

  1. A Jewish majority in the territories under Israeli control should be assured;
  2. A permanent border between Israel and the Palestinian entity is to be finalized.5

In PM Olmert's speech following his meeting with President Bush (24/5/06), several additional goals were mentioned:

  • a lessening of the friction between Israelis and Palestinians;
  • ensuring territorial contiguity that will permit the establishment of a Palestinian state; and
  • the design of Israel's permanent security borders.

Components

  • Israel's eastern border will be demarcated along the outlines of the separation barrier being built.6
  • Three large settlement blocs shall be retained under Israeli sovereignty or control: Gush Ezion, Gush Ma'ale Edumim and Gush Ariel.7 These blocs will be defined and expanded according to political and security needs of Israel. The expected inclusion of the E1 region between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Edumim derives from these same needs.8

  • Israeli sovereignty shall remain over Jerusalem, including the Old City, Eastern Jerusalem and Jewish neighborhoods on the eastern side of the Green Line.9

  • Some of the Palestinian neighborhoods that will stay initially under Israel control are expected in the future to be transferred to Palestinian control.10

  • The security border of Israel will remain at the Jordan River.11

Timing

The Convergence Plan was originally scheduled to be implemented within eighteen months of the establishment of the new government in early May 2006, i.e. by November 2007.12 Yet PM Olmert said in his Washington DC speech that (24/5) that he hoped to implement it within three to four years.

Concurrent political moves

The Plan emphasizes the importance of an Israeli domestic dialogue in order to achieve broad consent concerning the eventual permanent borders of the country13. In spite of this emphasis, Prime Minister Olmert stated after the Kadima Party’s electoral victory (3/06) that an Israeli majority supports the Convergence Plan and that he does not intend to conduct a referendum on this issue.14

Israel will attempt to garner support from the international community for the Plan, especially from the U.S. and Europe.15 In addition, Israel is relying on significant economic support of the U.S. for its full implementation.16

Issues in need of clarification

Issues related to the Convergence Plan that require further elaboration include:

  • The territory to be evacuated by Israel
  • The question of security control over the territory east of the separation barrier;17
  • The nature of security control over the Jordan Valley and the type of Israeli presence in this territory;
  • The extent of responsibility left in Israeli hands regarding territories that it will evacuate and their political-judicial status.

Issues relating to the Palestinian Authority

Validity of existing agreements between Israel and the PLO;

The border regime between Israel and the PA after implementation of Convergence, including border crossings;18

The future and prospects of the political process and the feasibility of a Palestinian State with Provisional Borders and/or a Permanent Status Agreement following the implementation of the Convergence Plan.

Coordination with the international community and Jordan

The extent and nature of international support and legitimacy required for the implementation of the Convergence Plan;

The interface between Israel and Jordan and its relevance to the relations of both parties with the PA.

Territory that will remain under Israeli control

The political and legal status of the three Jewish settlement blocs require clarification.



1 The Plan was first presented through interviews in the Israeli press with acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. (See Ben and Verter, Ha'aretz, 10/3/06, Caspit and Eyal, Ma'ariv, 10/3/06). Since the Plan was presented, the acting Prime Minister has been interviewed by other Israeli and American newspapers; however, the Convergence Plan still has not been presented on public or official platforms.
2 See here.
3 A copy of Prime Minister Olmert’s inaugural address (28/3/06) was attached to the Government’s Basic Guidelines and should be considered an integral part thereof (article 9, Basic Guidelines of the 31st Government). Nonetheless, in Olmert's victory speech the Convergence Plan was not mentioned, although it was pointed out that Israel will aspire to conduct negotiations on permanent borders with the Palestinians. In Olmert's words: "The agreement can be based only on negotiations which will advance on the basis of mutual recognition, prior agreements, principles of the Road Map…". In spite of this, he said that if "…the Palestinians will not to know how to act in the short term… Israel will take its fate in its hands and on the basis of wide national consent internally and with deep understanding with our friends in the world, and especially the U.S, we will act even without consent of [the Palestinians]". (See Olmert’s victory speech: here.; See also articles 2-3 of the Government’s Basic Guidelines).
4 The three settlement blocs referred to by PM Olmert in the context of the Convergence Plan are Gush Eztion, Ma'ale Edumim, and Ariel.
5 Ben and Verter, Ha'aretz, 10/3/06. A month later Prime Minister Olmert stated that Israel's goal will be to establish "permanent international recognized borders…" (Leggett, Wall Street Journal, 12/4/06).
6 Ben and Verter, Ha'aretz, 10/3/06.
7 When the first details of the Convergence Plan had been published, Avi Dichter, formerly head of the Israeli General Security Services and a candidate of "Kadima" to the Knesset, said that Israel will keep some other settlements blocs besides the three blocs mentioned by Olmert. Between them he demarcated Ofra, Beit-El, Karnei Shomron, Kedumim, and also the region of Kiryat Arba and Hebron. In an interview Olmert objected to Dichter's words (Hoffman, Keinon and Lefkovitz, Jerusalem Post, 9/3/06).
8 Ben, Ha'aretz, 12/3/06.
9 On this issue See Olmert's words concerning his position towards Jerusalem question: "Dividing [of Jerusalem] will not bring peace, only more fighting" (Leggett, Wall Street Journal, 12/4/06).
10 Leggett, Wall Street Journal, 12/4/06.
11 Ben and Verter, Ha'aretz, 10/3/06.
12 Leggett, Wall Street Journal, 12/4/06. According to this schedule, the Convergence Plan will be implemented during President Bush’s tenure and before a new President assumes office (11/08).
13 Ben and Verter, Ha'aretz, 10/3/06.
14 Weymouth, Washington Post, 9/4/06.
15 Ben and Verter, Ha'aretz, 10/3/06.
16 Weymouth, Washington Post, 9/4/06.
17 Avi Dichter said in a conference at Tel Aviv University (1/3/06) that the Olmert government will support withdrawal from settlements in the West Bank but will not concede on security control in the area. The disengagement in Northern Samaria within the framework of the Disengagement Plan was based on civic evacuation and removal of settlements while retaining security control over the area.
18 This issue includes questions such as the future of the customs envelope and border crossing procedures.