Well, I’ll be. Ehud Olmert may be becoming a realist in his old age (politically speaking that is). He’s even telling the neocon Jerusalem Post that Israel needs to start thinking seriously about returning to 1967 borders and dividing Jerusalem. What a change from Sharon, his one-time mentor, who sputtered endlessly about “the Holy city, Israel’s eternal, undivided capital.”
…The prime minister said many rival Israeli political parties remain “detached from the reality” that requires Israel to compromise “on parts of Eretz Yisrael” in order to maintain its Jewish, democratic nature.If Israel “will have to deal with a reality of one state for two peoples,” he said, this “could bring about the end of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. That is a danger one cannot deny; it exists, and is even realistic.”
…”What will be if we don’t want to separate?” he asked rhetorically. “Will we live eternally in a confused reality where 50 percent of the population or more are residents but not equal citizens who have the right to vote like us? My job as prime minister, more than anything else, is to ensure that doesn’t happen.”
The reality in which Israel was seeking an accommodation, he elaborated, includes a situation in which even “the world that is friendly to Israel… that really supports Israel, when it speaks of the future, it speaks of Israel in terms of the ’67 borders. It speaks of the division of Jerusalem.”
But don’t get too excited if you thought Olmert was changing his spots. He still believes that Israel’s biggest settlement expansion, the one which will doom a future Palestinian state and virtually cut it off from Jerusalem, Maaleh Adumim, is entirely within the spirit of a peace agreement.
At the same time, he made clear that he did not envisage a permanent accord along the ’67 lines, describing Ma’aleh Adumim as an “indivisible” part of Jerusalem and Israel.
…Olmert said he considered Ma’aleh Adumim to be “an indivisible part of Jerusalem and the State of Israel. I don’t think when people are talking about settlements they are talking about Ma’aleh Adumim.”
So if I understand him accurately, then most of Israel’s pragmatic friends foresee an agreement along the 67 borders. But he, despite being an Israeli realist, sees something different and somehow thinks that Israel’s “friends” will go along with his vision. Why?? Will they accept less than half a loaf simply because he tells them that’s all the Palestinians can rightfully expect?
I believe Olmert also makes a fateful blunder when he attempts to read Abbas’ mind regarding the Right of Return:
Olmert stressed that he would never accept a Palestinian “right of return” to Israel.
He said he was convinced, too, that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “has made the choice in his heart” between clinging to the “myth of the ‘right of return'” and the opportunity to establish a Palestinian state where all Palestinians, refugees included, would live.
“My impression is that he wants peace with Israel, and accepts Israel as Israel defines itself,” Olmert said. “If you ask him to say that he sees Israel as a Jewish state, he will not say that. But if you ask me whether in his soul he accepts Israel, as Israel defines itself, I think he does. That is not insignificant. It is perhaps not enough, but it is not insignificant.”
Isn’t it always interesting when one enemy becomes foolish enough to read into the other’s heart sentiments he wishes the other held, but doesn’t necessarily. That makes for potential huge levels of frustration and delusion. If Olmert thinks that Abbas has given up on the Right of Return he’s a total idiot. And I know that Olmert is not an idiot. This is a certain amount of public pandering for the Israeli voter. Olmert knows, I think, that he’s going to have to give on this issue and hopefully he is prepared to engage it in some serious way even if he’s not prepared to grant Palestinians everything they wish on this score. If not, then Olmert is just wasting everybody’s time.
It’s also laughable that the devoutly secular Olmert sees the “hand of God” in the line-up of leaders who are supportive of Israeli interests on the world stage:
Indeed, said the prime minister, there was currently an almost divinely ordained constellation of key personalities on the international stage favorably disposed to Israel, creating comfortable conditions for negotiations that might never be replicated.
“It’s a coincidence that is almost ‘the hand of God,'” Olmert said, “that Bush is president of the United States, that Nicolas Sarkozy is the president of France, that Angela Merkel is the chancellor of Germany, that Gordon Brown is the prime minister of England and that the special envoy to the Middle East is Tony Blair.”
The imperative, he said, was to make every effort for progress while this array of supportive characters remained in place.
“What possible combination,” he asked, “could be more comfortable for the State of Israel?”
Why don’t we just leave God out of this? Hasn’t this sort of thing gotten us into enough trouble in the Middle East? And a lot of good “God’s hand” will do him if he doesn’t produce. Having all those pro-Israel figures pushing Israel’s agenda won’t be worth a damn unless he offers the Palestinians something they can accept. Most Israeli leaders labor under the delusion that if they can wrap a U.S. president around their little finger that they can pretend to be interested in peace while doing nothing to achieve it (Sharon was like this in many ways except for the Gaza disengagement). I understand the above quotation in that context and it doesn’t bode well.
But as I said, I see Olmert as an opportunistic realist. I think he does want to make peace with the Palestinians though I’m not sure he has sufficient vision and fortitude to get there. But it is entirely possible he does. And I wish him well, though with no small amount of doubt in my mind about whether he can.