In a word, Ehud Olmert is not even a poor excuse for a prime minister. For he has abandoned the Israeli narrative and lost the ability to speak on behalf of our nation.
He made a statement to the Knesset Committee for Foreign Affairs and Defense yesterday. My first impulse was to respond to it, argument by argument, but I have decided not to because we are on the cusp of changes (please G-d!) and my energy is best spent doing other things.
Just two days ago, a report — unconfirmed — came from Channel 2 saying that Olmert had agreed to give away over 98% of our land in Judea and Samaria. Olmert’s statements to the committee, however, seemed to imply a 100% giveaway (I don’t believe that Jerusalem was included in this).
Whether he meant it — he certainly seems to mean it — or he was simply grandstanding is something I ponder.
On the one hand, he caves ever more to PA demands. As if — and I’ve described this before — we and not the Palestinians are in greatest need of a settlement. This is how he presents his case. So that finally he comes to the point of totally acceding to PA demands, while the other side concedes nothing. I speak with certainty when I tell you that this is not the position sanctioned by the majority of Israelis. For those of us concerned with our heritage as well as with security issues — which he totally and disgracefully discounted — it is all fairly unbearable and enormously enraging.
For the record: The ’67 lines were only armistice lines. They were not borders and it was not expected that they would become Israel’s borders. Jordan, in signing an armistice agreement, acknowledged that the lines weren’t final. The UN, in resolution 242, also structured matters so that Israel was not expected to return to the ’67 lines — issues of secure and defensible boundaries (which the ’67 lines do NOT represent) were alluded to.
There is nothing sacrosanct about those lines and no reason in the world we should be expected to return to them. That’s from a legal perspective — in short, with much more that might be said.
From the perspective of our heritage, there is solid claim to territory beyond the ’67 lines as well. From the perspective of heritage it is our land.
And yet, the Arabs have been so successful in their PR that they have convinced the world that they have a “right” to everything beyond the ’67 lines. It simply is not so.
The reason why I wonder if Olmert might be simply grandstanding — simply setting up a situation that shows how willing he was to sacrifice — is this: He also said that we cannot accept the “return” of “refugees.” Indeed, we cannot, and survive. But Olmert knows that Abbas cannot accept any final deal that does not include refugees returning. And perhaps then Olmert knows that in the end there will not be a settlement on a two-state solution arrived at now, or in the next four months.
On Sunday, the website of the armed branch of Hamas (carried by IMRA) delivered a message of severe criticism of Abbas for caving in negotiations with the “Zionists.” (The term “Israel” is never used.) Said Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum, the negotiations with “the Zionist entity” are “very dangerous and will not be accepted by the Palestinian people who will resist and foil these agendas.” Abbas, he said, is turning his back on “millions of displaced Palestinians” who had a right to “return to their homeland.”
This is why Abbas, even if he were inclined (which he is not) to compromise on refugees returning, is not able to do so. And why the negotiations ultimately cannot succeed. (Of course, much the same might be said about PA demands in Jerusalem, which is an issue still to be resolved.)
There continues to be trepidation that Olmert, in his last, reckless days as PM, might commit us to something in principle that will come back to haunt us at a later date.
As Olmert rambles on about what we must give in order to make a deal with the Palestinians immediately, MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) — former chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee — has come out with a statement that strongly opposes such negotiations:
“For any foreseeable future I do not see a partner, or any possibility to leave Judea and Samaria or even part of it.
“The idea of a two-state solution should be dead, today, because unfortunately a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would bring about Israel’s demise.”
Steinitz’s concerns happen to be strictly based on security considerations. He is, I would suggest, worth attending to because he started as a supporter of Peace Now and moved right because of what he saw happening on the ground.
Tomorrow, the Kadima primary. The two leading candidates, Livni and Mofaz, have both spoken about forming coalitions for new governments so that it will not be necessary to go to elections.
There is the possibility, just a possibility, that Shas Chairman Eli Yishai has now diminished the odds of this happening. In a Sunday interview with Maariv, he made a declaration — for whatever such declarations are worth — that Shas will not be party to a government “that does not declare that Jerusalem is not on the diplomatic agenda and is not to be included in negotiations.” (This means more than just postponing such talks — which is the game that has been played until now, it means not having them.)
Livni, who is very much the front-runner, is for such negotiations. Mofaz has spoken out against them.
There have been several speculations regarding Yishai’s motives.