You couldn’t find any greater “political dissident” than Gideon Levy in Israeli journalism. And even he has just come out in a Haaretz column saying that Ehud Olmert sincerely wants peace with the Palestinians:
After listening to many of his statements, some of them very impressive, one comes to recognize that Ehud Olmert perhaps truly desires peace with the Palestinians. The fact that he has not zigzagged, not even once, that he only reiterates the same things, speaking like Uri Avnery (even if 40 years late), that he does not backtrack or stutter – only reinforces this feeling. It is permissible, therefore, to succumb to the temptation and believe that the man who told Haaretz on November 28, “two states, or Israel is finished,” indeed has undergone a profound change.
It’s quite an achievement for Olmert to persuade a crusty old die hard “peacenik” like Levy that he is the genuine article. But the point that Levy makes is that it’s not enough to be sincere. You have to make difficult decisions that make enemies in order to achieve such a goal. And that’s Olmert’s problem. He wants victory but without the heavy lifting.
Levy proposes a radical solution. Fire the right-wingers in his current coalition and replace them with left-wingers:
Olmert’s first test…is to dismantle the coalition that is blocking him. He has a suitable alternative: Meretz instead of Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu, for a total of 60 Knesset seats. Another historic effort to bring the Arab factions into the government would create a stable coalition of 70 seats. A coalition that allows you to make peace.
This step is not devoid of risks…It is doubtful whether the Arabs would join. Perhaps they only would provide support from the outside. This coalition would also take a barrage of sharp public criticism. But someone who speaks in terms of “Israel is finished” cannot allow himself – or us – the luxury of preserving his cozy, safe and paralyzing coalition while Israel continues to slide toward the denouement he himself has envisioned. How can Olmert himself rationalize his inaction in light of such a terrifying vision? He failed to save the state because of Lieberman? He did nothing because of Yishai?
Of course, this very path was suggested to him by Haaretz columnists BEFORE he formed his coalition. The fact that he chose to ignore the advice and pursue a center-right coalition strategy speaks volumes about his political inclinations. So I’m not sure why Olmert would change his spots at this late in the political game.
But you just never know. Personally, I think Levy’s idea holds great merit:
With such a coalition and with the determination Olmert expressed in his speeches, an assault could be mounted toward the political goal. Thousands of prisoners could be freed, changing at once the atmosphere in the relations with the Palestinians. A voluntary evacuation-compensation bill could be passed, outposts could be dismantled, funding for the settlements could be halted and the long journey of extracting the most dangerous abscess of all from the territories could begin. The siege on Gaza could be lifted, and Hamas could be called upon to join the process, which would only benefit the miserable residents of the Strip…
A new government in Israel, whose establishment would underline the seriousness of its intentions to generate a real change in direction, would herald a historic turning point. Olmert would take a risk upon himself in forming it, but what does he have to lose? What is the alternative? To survive another year, to make lofty speeches, to flatter Bush, to sit idly and go down in history as a footnote between one calamity and another? Now is the time and this is the step: a peace government for Israel.
In addition, Olmert could open negotiations with Syria and even Hamas if he chooses.
What can he do now? He can take a dump in the crapper. That’s about all his current coalition partners allow him to do before they start braying about him betraying the Jewish people with his compromises for peace.