Bush Administration Ehud Olmert Israel Israeli occupation Israeli settlements

Will Olmert actually do something about the settlements? Maybe!

There are glimmers of hope out there, suddenly… Am I the only reader of Middle East news reports who feels that way? A few hours ago, both Y-net news and Haaretz.com ran stories about the possibility of a settlement freeze. Both tell us that Olmert informed the heads of the YESHA Council (i.e., the settler leaders) that painful sacrifices are necessary. This will probably hit the American media soon, but I might as well spread the word now…

The happy Haaretz report says that Israel will announce “a freeze on settlement construction prior to the Annapolis conference, and will also declare its willingness to dismantle illegal West Bank settlement outposts, government sources said Tuesday. Last night, a group of senior Israeli officials flew to Washington to discuss the components of this freeze with Bush Administration officials. They will also brief the Americans on Israel’s security interests in the talks with the Palestinians.

“In recent weeks, the United States has been demanding that Israel make significant gestures on settlements and outposts prior to the conference, to compensate for its refusal to discuss the “core issues” of a final-status agreement until after the conference ends. These gestures are meant to make it clear that Israel does not intend to remain in the territories, and understands that its presence there is only temporary.”

The Y-Net piece, Olmert ends ‘difficult’ meeting with Yesha leaders, includes the following sub head:

“YESHA Council’s first meeting with PM since he took office ends stridently, as Olmert announces some concessions are inevitable. ‘We definitely have something to worry about,’ says YESHA chief.”

Later, we read that, according to YESHA head Danny Dayan, “Olmert…did not speak directly about evacuating more settlements in the West Bank, but his intentions were clear. We realize the government wants to freeze all settlement projects in the West Bank.”

There is a chance that this is just make-believe, of course, in order to placate the Americans and to give the Gulf States incentives to show up in Maryland. Perhaps Olmert has no intention of actually doing anything about the expansionist madness. His predecessors didn’t have the political stomach to do what needed to be done. But this guy has virtually nothing to lose, politically. He has everything to gain by shattering some precedents.

Times have been so bleak, of late, that even if an Israeli Prime Minister’s confrontation with West Bank settlers is an empty political gesture to grab some headlines, it is better than no gesture at all. At least he is telling these people the truth.

6 thoughts on “Will Olmert actually do something about the settlements? Maybe!

  1. Times are bleak indeed. Seems like this is just for American consumption. How many times have they promised to do something about the settlement outposts? But you’re right, the fact that Olmert did this in a public way means he knows he has lost the settler vote anyway, so why not do what the majority of Israelis want, for once…There is a “glimmer” of hope there, if you look hard enough

  2. the fate of the settlements depends on who you ask. on the surface, they are growing and the Sasson Report looks dead and buried.

    + the huge police station in E-1 is nearing completing. then again, i saw Ha’aretz’s Akiva Eldar speak last night who said that the station was just a ‘fig-leaf’ from the Govt to the settlers. Eldar said he’d spoken to the mayor of Maale Adumim who said: “And he is very discouraged about the prospects that he can expand the city into E-1.”

    so it’s all in the balance i guess.

  3. There was an announcement this morning of a halt in settlement construction, how long who knows.

    Also, an announcement of promised release of 400 Palestinian activists (less than the 2000 requested, but also not incidental).

    The settlement project is a continental divide.

    The specific design was of fingers, expanding and thickening, until the land was functionally Israel, and Palestinian life was difficult, marginal, and did not constitute an integrity sufficient to self-govern.

    That was a fantasy when introduced in the early 70’s and supported by Likud actively since the mid-70’s.

    Its still a fantasy, but now right at the cliff level.

    To pursue it further, is to confirm the expansionist intent of Israel the state, and odd adoption of selective scriptural support for prophecy as state policy.

    So, NOW is the time to settle it with the Palestinians. If they accept the settlers staying in sovereign Palestine, then the only issue is title of the land.

    I hope they don’t insist on a functional Jew-free West Bank, as application of law. That would create a more pronounced functional ethnic cleansing than is criticized of Israel. In 1948, Jews were similarly run out of town and scared and invited to Israel, as Palestinians.

    The other options are land swaps that result in the incorporation of some of the settlement blocs becoming sovereign Israel and some of the Palestinian majority parts of Israel becoming Palestine.

    That seems to be a defense nightmare though, that leaves the maze to defend rather than clear square borders.

  4. It is not too late to step back from the cliff that Richard describes. But it won’t happen without American pressure, a clear statement that Israel needs to stop the madness or else suffer negative consequences. I used to get angry at people who said that, because I thought it was bad for Israel, whose survival was not necessarily certain without American help. Now, I still think American help is necessary for Israel’s survival, but this time it has to be in the form of tough love, harsh words.

  5. Teddy,
    It contrasts with Bush’s very clear implications (is an implication clear, in these politics, yes) that he accepted the annexation of some of the West Bank into Israel.

    I don’t think its necessary to go so far as to declare “Zionism is racism”, or “Israel is a criminal state”, as many on the far left do.

    Its still possible for a US president and Congress to state, “we are committed to institutions and practises of bi-lateral and multi-lateral international law”.

  6. Richard,

    No Israeli PM will do enough if the U.S. just says, “Please.” Nor will it be enough to state the principles you noted about international law.

    It take will real leverage and real pressure to force a PM to essentially bypass Israel’s dysfunctional political system, and to tell the Israeli people, “We have to do this. The Americans aren’t going to bend on this.”

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