Monday, September 29, 2008

Olmert: Israel must hand back land for peace with Palestinians and Syria

Via Guardian.

Outgoing PM says in newspaper interview there will be no deals without withdrawing from 'almost all' land captured in 1967 war

The outgoing prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, has said his country will have to withdraw from "almost all" the land it captured in the 1967 war and divide Jerusalem in order to agree long-awaited peace deals with the Palestinians and Syria.

His comments, which were unusually far-reaching for an Israeli leader, came in an interview with an Israeli newspaper ahead of the Jewish new year and days after his resignation. He remains in his post in a caretaker capacity and is thought unlikely to be able to follow through with any of the proposals he has made.

In the long interview with two senior political columnists at the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Olmert talked about peace with the Palestinians and the Syrians and continued to maintain his innocence over a series of high-profile corruption investigations that in the end pushed him to step down.

His most striking words came on the Palestinian issue. "We have to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, the meaning of which is that in practice we will withdraw from almost all the territories, if not all the territories," Olmert said. "We will leave a percentage of these territories in our hands, but will have to give the Palestinians a similar percentage, because without that there will be no peace."

Israel wants to keep some of the main settlement blocs in the West Bank, but in return for any occupied land Israel keeps the Palestinians want a land swap for territory of equal size and quality within Israel. If a peace deal is ever struck, that land swap would probably include a corridor linking Gaza and the West Bank.

At another point, Olmert said: "In the end, we will have to withdraw from the lion's share of the territories, and for the territories we leave in our hands, we will have to give compensation in the form of territories within the State of Israel at a ratio that is more or less 1:1."

Olmert said the withdrawal would have to include parts of east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war. "Whoever wants to hold on to all of the city's territory will have to bring 270,000 Arabs inside the fences of sovereign Israel. It won't work," he said. The prospect of dividing Jerusalem remains hugely contentious within Israel, although few believe a peace deal could work without a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem.

On Syria, he said his government began secret talks in February last year and said he believed that Israel would have to give up the Golan Heights in return for Syria breaking its relationship with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Olmert admitted his comments were rare. "What I am saying to you now has not been said by any Israeli leader before me. The time has come to say these things." He seemed to admit his thinking in the past had been mistaken, particularly on his previous belief that Jerusalem should remain wholly inside Israel. "I am not trying to justify retroactively what I did for 35 years. For a large portion of these years, I was unwilling to look at reality in all its depth," he said.

Olmert has taken a similar tone in several speeches since resigning, although he went further in this interview than before.

He has been in office since early 2006 and although peace talks have been under way with the Syrians and, for the past year, the Palestinians, there has been no concrete progress. Instead, Jewish settlements have continued to expand in the West Bank and the number of roadblocks and checkpoints has increased. Olmert has put off talks on the future of Jerusalem and adamantly refused to allow any Palestinian refugees to return to what is now Israel, even though both are core issues to be negotiated in peace talks.

Rather than being remembered for peace negotiations, Olmert is more likely to be remembered as an unpopular prime minister who was strongly criticised for his handling of the war in Lebanon in 2006 and who faced a long series of embarrassing corruption investigations - although no charges have yet been brought.

The two journalists who interviewed Olmert, Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer, wrote that his goal was to leave a legacy, defend his conduct and perhaps pave the way for a return to political office in the future. "He places on the doorstep of his successor a foreign policy doctrine, the likes of which has never been spoken by an incumbent prime minister," they wrote.

They said it was legacy that might make life harder for Tzipi Livni, who replaced Olmert as the head of the ruling Kadima party and is now trying to form a coalition government that would make her prime minister. She would be called on to either back or reject Olmert's proposals and, as Barnea and Shiffer noted, "there is no diplomatic fog in this interview that she can hide behind".


At 7:18 AM, Blogger Frank Partisan said...

There are only two catagories of Zionists, territorialist or expansionist. The terms apply to withdrawing from the 1967 borders.

At this time, the territorialist view is primary. Their problem is that the Israeli government, can't afford to pay costs to remove all the settlements that they think should be moved.

If they don't leave the 1967 borders, the idea of a Jewish state, would be a joke.

At 2:54 PM, Blogger Gert said...

I believe another 10, 20 or 60 years of occupation of the West Bank would be very detrimental to Israel proper. Increased religious fundamentalism (that fuels most of the current settler movement), combined with disenchantment by the younger generation and the secular with a country that allows, even subsidises, such lawlessness in territories that don't even rightly belong to them, is a recipe for either massive re-emigration or even worse, civil war.

"Their problem is that the Israeli government, can't afford to pay costs to remove all the settlements that they think should be moved."

I don't believe the financial cost is really the biggest problem here. But a succession of dithering Israeli governments since 1967 has allowed the settler movement to create a large number of facts on the ground (even though the actual territory taken up by the colonists is relatively small) and their removal will be seriously problematic because the issue has become an electoral wedge.

Israel is now one of the very few nations without properly defined borders. How the founders must despair, turn in their graves even, at this ridiculous outcome...

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Mad Zionist said...

Olmert has been drooling to give away Israel for many years. His fantasy would be to abolish the Jewish State and create a multi-ethnic society of all peoples as a celebration of humanity. Livni will only be too happy to help move this plan along with vigor.

At 1:29 PM, Blogger Gert said...


I hate it when you're not serious: sarcasm doesn't really suit you... ;)

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Baconeater said...

His fantasy would be to abolish the Jewish State and create a multi-ethnic society of all peoples as a celebration of humanity.
Like Canada where I live? And like the USA where you live?
That would just be horrible.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Avi said...

Olmert is living in a post-Zionist fantasy world. What nation can continually give back land, surrender and withdraw while remaining in a strong position?

The idea of 'returning' the Golan heights is ridiculous. Syria was carved up by the French in 1947. They ruled the Golan Heights for 20 years until it was conquered by Israel in 1967. It has been forty years since then. Do the math. If Syria only ruled the Golan for 20 years, and Israel has ruled it for 40+ years, what makes Syria its rightful owner? Syria lost it in a war which it initiated against Israel with the intention of destroying it.

The Golan is essential for Israel' security. From the Golan, one can see into Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. With a pair of binoculars, standing on Mount Hermon, one can see into homes in Damascus. This is a strategic advantage that Israel can ill afford to relinquish. Syria has not launched a shot at Israel since '73. Why? Sudden love? It is because Israel has the high ground.

Ariel Sharon's argument in support of the Disengagement plan from Gaza was that 7 000 Jews cannot rule over a million Arabs. A similar claim is repeated with regards to Judea and Samaria, that it is majority Arab and it would therefore be wrong to retain control over it. Such a thing cannot be said about the Golan. The Golan is home to over 30 000 Jews, a few thousand Druze living in 5 northern villages, and absolutely no Arabs (did I mention that the Golan is one of my favourite places in Israel?). The Golan is firmly Jewish.

The Golan has a tropical climate and is perfectly suited for many types of fruits that cannot be grown in Israel's center, due to the occasionnal chills in the winter. It is full of blooming mango, banana and other exotic fruit orchards. A very significant portion of Israel's produce comes from the Golan. It has a booming industry and every city and town has signs offering tzimmers, lodges for rent, at cheap prices. Israeli tourists flock to the Golan, whose vegetation and weather is very different from the south of the country. Uprooting the Golan's 30 000 Jews and destorying the flourishing industry would be a great blow to Israel's economy, one that is certainly not worth a false "peace" with a country that has not launched a shot at Israel since '73.

All of this doesn't even mention the deep Jewish ties that Israel has to the Golan. Even ignoring those, when we look at security, demography and economics, there is no compelling reason to withdraw from the Golan.

As for Judea and Samaria, it is time for Israel to realize that a "two-state solution" would be a Final Solution. An Arab terrorist state in Judea and Samaria would be only a few miles away from Jerusalem's suburbs and would put every single major Israeli city within rocket range. Look at what happened in Sderot following the Gaza Disengagement. All the Arabs need to do is shoot down one plane coming into Ben-Gurion airport (now in rocket range) and Israel is finished. Tourism is done, as is aliyah and trade. A terrorist state carved out from the belly of Israel is not needed. The world has no need for a 23rd Arab state.

At 1:48 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Bar Kochba:

All you're doing here is post-hoc rationalising a pre-conceived idea that can be summarised in two words: Eretz Yisrael.

International law doesn't take into consideration how long Golan belonged to Syria or not: it did (and does) belong to Syria (according to internationally agreed upon borders) and cannot be de facto annexed, following military conquest.

The case of the West Bank is similar (and addressed by the same UN Resolution 242).

If a Two State solution came about and resulted initially in a state of war between Israel and the newly formed Palestinian state, Israel would be in no position to lose. Stop the hypocritical self-pitying self-victimisation and the risible invocation of another Final Solution: militarily Israel is by far the strongest state in the region: not without very powerful defences by a long shot. It's also the only state in the region with nuclear capability, hardly a toothless and clawless tiger, wouldn't you say?

The only way "to get rid" of the "Palestinian problem" that doesn't constitute mass-murder would constitute the largest mass deportation since WW II. Given that the other case that springs to mind involved some six million Jews it's inconceivable that the some victims of that crime and their surviving descendants are now contemplating doing the same thing, in particular to a people that had no responsibility in the tragedy that befell European Jewry.

You are essentially advocating a crime similar in magnitude to the Holocaust. But do keep believing that you're one of the Righteous...

At 12:44 AM, Blogger Avi said...

Resolution 242 specifically calls from withdrawal from "territories", not "all territories", in order that Israel be allowed to keep those essential to its security. Gert, sitting in your Manchester living room, you have no idea how small Israel is. One can stand on a hill in the Golan and see Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. When Syria controlled the Golan, it continuously rained rocket fire on Israeli moshavim. There is no way that any Israeli PM is going to bring Syria back to the shores of the Kinneret, within range of Tiberias, Safed or any other city. Israel has developped the Golan to such a degree that it is inconceivable to uproot it.

Again, you have no idea Israel's size. Every single Israeli city would be in range from Palestinian rockets if a two-state solution came about. What makes you think that the result would be any different from the attacks on Sderot?

And have you forgotten the over half a million Jews of Arab lands who were expelled from land which they had lived in since Talmudic times? They lost billions of dollars of property, were forced out and came to Israel. Repaying the Arabs in kind would be the only fair thing. Comparing this to the Shoah cheapens it and you know it. It is time to complete the second half of this population transfer.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Gert said...


"Gert, sitting in your Manchester living room, you have no idea how small Israel is."

I've lived in Britain for longer than I care to remember but am originally from Belgium where I lived for some thirty years. Next to Gaza and Holland, it's the most densely populated area in the world. Are you advocating all small and densely populated areas grab themselves some lebensraum?

"Again, you have no idea Israel's size. Every single Israeli city would be in range from Palestinian rockets if a two-state solution came about. What makes you think that the result would be any different from the attacks on Sderot?"

A Two State solution calls largely for a demilitarised Palestinian state. For the rockets Israel will find more adequate defences. The militants can be dealt with.

"Comparing this to the Shoah cheapens it and you know it."

No, it doesn't. The Shoah wasn't the only mass-genocide committed by mankind on his own brethren: there have been many and in all likelihood there are many others to come. The Holocaust is only unique in some respects but not all.

As I've said many times before: your motivation is extremist-religious, why then drag all sorts of things into it that don't really concern you?

As regards your transfer ideas, dream on: they will never happen.

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