March 23, 2007

Israel To Give Ground In Jerusalem?

Ehud Olmert took a step yesterday that not even Ehud Barak made in his quest to reach a comprehensive peace plan with the Palestinians. In Tel Aviv yesterday, Olmert embraced the Saudi initiative, which calls for a partition of Jerusalem, a return to 1967 borders, and the end of all settlements:

In a bid to open a channel to the Arabs, Israel's premier is embracing a long dormant Saudi peace proposal that would divide Jerusalem and could flood the Jewish state with Palestinian Arab refugees with family claims to land evacuated in the 1948 war that created the state.

Speaking in Tel Aviv yesterday, Prime Minister Olmert said Israel was prepared to make "sweeping, painful, and tough concessions" in order to forge open contacts with Arab states that offered in 2002 to acknowledge Israel's right to exist in exchange for its full retreat from the territories it won in the 1967 war.

"The Saudi initiative is interesting and has many sections that I would be willing to accept — though, predictably, not all of them — and it could certainly be a convenient basis for continued dialogue between us and Arab moderates," he said.

Mr. Olmert's embrace of the Saudi initiative, a proposal Saudi Arabia's then crown prince initially shared with a New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, comes just days before the Israeli premier meets with his Palestinian Arab counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, and Secretary of State Rice. A day after their meeting Sunday, Ms. Rice will fly to Aswan, Egypt, for a summit with her Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi, and United Arab Emirates counterparts to discuss, one State Department official said, "strategies for marketing the Arab peace offer."

The Israelis have deep divisions over this proposal. Some see it as a reasonable starting ground, while others warn that it amounts to giving the inch that will encourage Hamas to grab the mile. Dore Gold, an ally of Binyamin Netanyahu, responded by insisting that any attempt to partition Jerusalem would only encourage the Palestinians to take the rest by force, and also would attract al-Qaeda affiliates to launch attacks to drive Israel from its share of the city.

In exchange for openness to the Saudi initiative, the Israelis want to see some modifications. The right of return has to go, although the Israelis might still be open to trading more territory in exchange for that point, as Barak suggested at Wye. They want the plan to include "confidence building" stages in order to ensure that Israeli security remains at the forefront. They also want to make sure that the borders Israel accepts are defensible against another attack through the territories -- the reason Israel occupies them in the first place, a point that many conveniently forget. The Arab nations attacked Israel twice through those lands when they belonged to Jordan.

This sounds like a loser to me, however. Israel will not accept the partition of Jerusalem easily, nor will the nation blithely support the dismantling of its settlements in the West Bank. The forced removal of settlers in Gaza created a firestorm of criticism, and that decision involved far fewer settlers in a much less defensible area. Given Olmert's popularity, I doubt he could get the Knesset to sign off on such an agreement. After botching the war and the peace in Lebanon, not too many will trust him with the Saudi initiative.

Condoleezza Rice has another round of diplomatic visits in the region, and she is expected to push the moderation of rhetoric about Israel as a forerunner to regional talks. Rice and the US have likely pushed the Saudi initiative as a replacement for the so-called Roadmap; it's doubtful Olmert would have embraced it on his own. It's hard to understand why the US keeps pushing this on Israel when the Palestinians won't support the treaties they've already signed, let alone agree to bargain in good faith with Israel now. The Bush administration should cease efforts to broker a deal until the Palestinians prove themselves ready to accept peace and a two-state solution as a permanent settlement.


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Comments (7)

Posted by stackja1945 [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 5:44 AM

Trust Ham Ass? Pigs fly? Many trusted Hitler. Ham Ass seems to continue the Hitlerite tradition.

Posted by Sabba Hillel [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 6:48 AM

The left in Israel have not forgiven the Israelis for proving them wrong about the Arabs. As a result, they will do all they can to destroy the state. It is like the Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore left here. They can forgive anything except being proven wrong.

Posted by Mr Lynn [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 7:30 AM

Israel needs someone like Netanyahu who can draw a line in the sand—actually the river, the Jordan River—and say, "This side is ours, that side is yours, and that's that. We gave back Gaza, and that's all we're giving back, ever."

The Arabs are fanatically opposed to the very idea of an Israeli state, and they are not going to change any time soon. What is happening instead is that they are all becoming radicalized by Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, which will just harden the ideological fervor to drive the Jews into the sea.

The pre-'67 borders are not defensible. They have been obsolete for 40 years, and should remain so. Israel and the US should stop pretending otherwise.

/Mr Lynn

Posted by Lew [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 8:07 AM

In order to even begin a negotiation, you must first have two parties that can negotiate and abide by a negotiated agreement. That case doesn't exist here! What is so hard to understand about that?

As long as both parties cannot budge from their mutually exclusive positions without excepting their own death, then there is nothing to negotiate. The party that has the power to protect itself has no other option but to put up a wall, slam the door and turn out the lights on the other.

"Here's my number. When you want to talk seriously, call me. Meanwhile, have a nice day!"

Posted by naftali [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 9:45 AM

It doesn't make sense on the surface, but it makes perfect sense under the surface. Israel has stated that one of the things they learned from fighting Hezbollah is that the weaponry of conventional warfare doesn't work too well when fighting terrorism. They are in the process of developing new types of weapons. Their statements indicate, to me, that they are playing for time. If Olmert keeps going ahead with this he is well aware his goverment could fall and new elections would be needed. If this happens, they have more time--if Netanyahu wins, erase the board and start again, more time. It's quite possible that the next war fought over there will be one we've never seen before--unless the Arabs force their hand and we see Hezbollah the Sequel.

Posted by Carl in Jerusalem [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 10:05 AM

Lengthy comment on this post here.

Posted by aynrandgirl [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 1:39 PM

Israel has pretty much already abandoned Bethlehem, and the Christians being murdered and raped there in order to speed up their ouster. It looks on its way to being conquered by Islam any day now. Abandoning Jerusalem doesn't seem much different.