Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In Praise of Ehud Olmert

When a major Arab state would finally sign a peace treaty with Israel, it was long assumed, the Arab-Israeli conflict would end. The Egypt-Israel peace treaty of 1979, however, buried that expectation; it had the perverse effect of making other states and also the Egyptian populace more anti-Zionist.

The 1980s gave birth to a hope that, instead, Palestinian recognition of Israel would close the conflict. The total failure of the 1993 Declaration of Principles (the Oslo Accords) then buried that expectation.

Starting about 2007, a new focus has emerged, of winning acceptance of Israel as a sovereign Jewish state. Israel's former prime minister Ehud Olmert [pictured above] set the terms: "I do not intend to compromise in any way over the issue of the Jewish state. This will be a condition for our recognition of a Palestinian state."

Olmert got this one right.

Arab-Israeli diplomacy has dealt with a myriad of subsidiary issues while tiptoeing around the conflict's central issue: "Should there be a Jewish state?"

Disagreement over this answer rather than over Israel's boundaries, its exercise of self defense, its control of the Temple Mount, its water consumption, its housing construction in West Bank towns, diplomatic relations with Egypt, or the existence of a Palestinian state is the key issue.

Palestinian leaders responded, with howls of outrage, declaring that they "absolutely refused" to accept Israel as a Jewish state. They even pretended to be shocked at the notion of a state defined by religion, although their own "Constitution of the State of Palestine" states that "Arabic and Islam are the official Palestinian language and religion."

Regrettably, the Obama administration endorsed the Palestinian position, again sidelining the Israeli demand.

Would-be peacemakers must direct their attention to increasing the size of [the Arab] moderate cohort [who support recognition of Israel as Jewish]. Getting from 20 percent to, say, 60 percent would fundamentally shift the politics of the Middle East, displacing Israel from its exaggerated role and releasing the peoples of this blighted region to address their real challenges. Not Zionism but such, oh, minor problems as autocracy, brutality, cruelty, conspiracism, religious intolerance, apocalypticism, political extremism, misogyny, slavery, economic backwardness, brain drain, capital flight, corruption, and drought.
[National Review Online]

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