Thursday, May 25, 2006

Olmert in America

Israel's prime Minister Erud Olmert appears to have had a reasonably successful US visit this week. But I am a little bit puzzled by the Bush Administration's responses to his withdrawal policies, as well as to editorials in the New York Times and Boston Globe.

Actually, in retrospect, Bush's lukewarm and conditional support for Olmert's desire to continue Ariel Sharon's unilateral withdrawal plans are not all that surprising. If the Sharon-Olmert plans prove successful, they will have virtually no serious fingerprints from the Bush administration, which has all along promoted their Roadmap that was a virtual nonstarter. (I predicted as much in an op-ed piece, “Call it a Road Map Now, It’s Really the Same Old Conflict,” in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on August 12, 2003, but it no longer appears to be online to nonsubscribers). It makes sense that Bush hopes to reap the benefits of a future peace agreement in Israel, irrespective of whether he actually has any relevance to the outcome.

The Times and Globe are a bit more vexing.

Let's forget for a moment the unconscionable moral relativism of the paper of record:

It's long been clear that getting a workable, feasible Palestinian state out of two geographically separate masses of land in the desert will be an uphill battle. Now, because of two culprits and one enabler — Hamas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and President Bush — that hill is becoming a mountain.
See how it works? Ehud Olmert, who just took office and who is working toward establishing facts on the ground that will allow for the creation of a Palestinian state, is the equivalent to Hamas, a known terrorist organization that has called for the eradication of Israel. It is hard to take the piece seriously from there, but let's for a moment assume that we must. The editorial goes on:
Speaking to Congress yesterday, Mr. Olmert said Israel was willing "to negotiate with a Palestinian Authority." He added, "In a few years they could be living in a Palestinian state, side by side in peace and security with Israel."

We'd like to see that, too. We only hope that Mr. Olmert and Mr. Bush realize that there will not be peace in the Middle East unless the Palestinians have a say in creating a state that can function.

My question to the editors: As you acknowledge earlier in the piece, did the Palestinians not exercise their say when they chose to elect Hamas? But furthermore, how is the decision to leave the bulk of West Bank and all of Gaza NOT a step toward letting the "Palestinians have a say in creating a state that can function"?

By comparison, the Globe editorial is nowhere near as obtuse. But only by comparison. In their concluding passages the editors write:

The sage principle Bush was affirming is that any division of the land must be approved and accepted by both sides.

This means Olmert cannot come to Washington to negotiate a final-status agreement. The road map for Mideast peace that was sponsored by the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia as well as the United States -- and that Bush continues to commend to Israel as the unaltered basis of US policy -- requires Israel to negotiate its permanent borders only with Palestinians, not with Americans.

If this is the message Olmert takes away from his Washington trip, it will have been a worthwhile visit for him, for Israel, and for the Palestinians.

This sounds reasonable. Except for a couple of not-so-minor issues: The Roadmap is dead. It has been dead since 2003. It is not coming back to life, especially with things being as they are now. Furthermore, what indication do the solons on Morrisey Boulevard have that Olmert came to Washington with the intention of negotiating a final-status agreement? Absolutely none, so the misplaced chiding is unecessary, superfluous, not especially useful, and indicates a disengagement from reality that ought to alarm the paper's loyal readers, of which I am one.

Finally, in an ideal world, of course Israel would negotiate with Palestinians. But where have the big shots at the Globe (and the Times) been since September 2000 when the Palestinians declared their intifada and began letting Israeli blood? Or if nearly six years is too hopelessly large a hunk of time for these newspapermen and women, where have they been since the Palestinains elected a leadership with the avowed desire of eradicating Israel from the map?


Cram said...

I don't have much to add here, since you hit the nail on the head, but I would like to reiterate that the Palestinian government does not WANT peace with Israel, and has refused to even recognize its existence and that is the problem.

Israel has demonstrated time and time again in poll and in policy that it is willing to give up land in exchange for peace. Those who argue erroneously that the Palestinians have no other outlet or option than murdering innocent men, women, and children should at least entertain the possibility that negotiation MIGHT have some value over rejectionism.

I would recommend people read a transcript of Olmert’s speech before Congress to understand Israel's intentions and mindset. I welcome the submission of an equivalent Palestinian position.

Here are some useful excerpts:
"Over the past six years more than 20,000 attempted terrorist attacks have been initiated against the people of Israel. Most, thankfully, have been foiled by our security forces. But those which have succeeded have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians… and the injury of thousands - many of them children guilty ONLY of being in what proved to be the wrong place at the wrong time."

“The Palestinian Authority is ruled by Hamas - an organization committed to vehement anti-Semitism, the glorification of terror and the total destruction of Israel. As long as these are their guiding principles, they can never be a partner.”

With a genuine Palestinian partner for peace, I believe we can reach an agreement on all the issues that divide us. Our past experience shows us it is possible to bridge the differences between our two peoples. I believe this - I KNOW THIS - because we have done it before, in our peace treaties with Egypt and with Jordan. These treaties involved painful and difficult compromises. It required Israel to take real risks.

But if there is to be a just, fair and lasting peace, we need a partner who rejects violence and who values life more than death. We need a partner that affirms in action, not just in words, the rejection, prevention and elimination of terror.

Peace with Egypt became possible only after President Anwar Sadat came to our Knesset and declared, once and for all, "No more war and no more bloodshed." And peace with Jordan became possible only after the late King Hussein, here in Washington, declared the end of the state of belligerency, signed a peace treaty with us, and wholeheartedly acknowledged Israel's right to exist.

The lesson for the Palestinian people is clear. In a few years they could be living in a Palestinian state, side by side in peace and security with Israel. A Palestinian State which Israel and the international community would help thrive.

But no one can make this happen for them if they refuse to make it happen for themselves.

For thousands of years, we Jews have been nourished and sustained by a yearning for our historic land. I, like many others, was raised with a deep conviction that the day would never come when we would have to relinquish parts of the land of our forefathers. I believed, and to this day still believe, in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land… Painfully, we the people of Israel have learned to change our perspective. We have to compromise in the name of peace, to give up parts of our promised land in which every hill and valley is saturated with Jewish history and in which our heroes are buried. We have to relinquish part of our dream to leave room for the dream of others, so that all of us can enjoy a better future. For this painful but necessary task my government was elected. And to this I am fully committed.

It is three years since the Road Map for Peace was presented. The Road Map was and remains the right plan. A Palestinian leadership that fulfils its commitments and obligations will find us a willing partner in peace. But if they refuse, we will not give a terrorist regime a veto over progress, or allow it to take hope hostage.”

Olmert also discusses the Palestinian culture of death as instilled in their education system, and the danger a nuclear-armed Iran is. Definitely worth a read.

dcat said...

We agree. I suspect that at least one of our readers does not. but we have the virtue in this case of being right.