Israel’s Offer: Ehud Olmert has made clear what Palestinians have to gain by forming a new government.
AFTER FIVE months of violence and political drift, there has been encouraging movement toward peace on the Israeli-Palestinian front this week. Much of it is because of Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert. Over the weekend Mr. Olmert agreed to a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a deal Israeli governments had refused to make for the past several years. On Monday — though a few Palestinian rockets were still falling in Israel in violation of the cease-fire — the prime minister delivered a major speech in which he offered the release of “numerous” Palestinian prisoners, a significant reduction in controls on the movement of people and goods in Gaza and the West Bank, and a full reopening of negotiations to create a Palestinian state.
In exchange, Mr. Olmert asked for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the soldier whose abduction by Palestinian militants touched off the Middle East’s summer war and spelled the end of Israel’s plan to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank. Mr. Olmert said that peace negotiations — the first in six years — would depend on success in Mr. Abbas’s effort to form a new Palestinian government that, unlike the present administration of the Islamic Hamas movement, would recognize Israel and renounce violence. But Mr. Olmert was clear about what those talks could lead to: “an independent and viable Palestinian state, with territorial contiguity” in Gaza and the West Bank. To create that state, he said, “Israel will agree to the evacuation of many territories and communities which were established therein.” (more…)