Archive for November 2006

More on Olmert’s offer: The Washington Post’s Take

November 30, 2006

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…)


It’s Worth Reaching Out to Syria

November 28, 2006

By CALME American leader Martin Bresler, Vice Chair, Americans for Peace Now

The New York Times ran an editorial on November 15th entitled “The Road to Damascus” which rightly chides President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert for staying within their diplomatic comfort zones and continuing to balk at suggestions to reach out to Syria.  While such a move might be difficult to undertake, it would be well worth the expenditure of political capital if stronger ties with Syria were successful in exerting pressure on Iran and facilitating progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. (more…)

Olmert Reaches Out

November 28, 2006

In a major policy speech delivered on the anniversary of David Ben-Gurion’s death, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered wide-ranging concessions to the Palestinians on Monday in order to try and persuade them to return to the negotiating table and begin serious talks about building an independent Palestinian state.  In Olmert’s speech, given just one day after a ceasefire in Gaza went into effect, he promised near-term quality of life improvements, including a reduction of checkpoints, as well as a prisoner release.  He also promised to release frozen funds and, perhaps most critically, to evacuate many settlements and territories.

Olmert’s proposed concessions and concurrent offer to meet with Abbas were contingent upon several Palestinian actions, including formation of a government committed to the “roadmap” and other existing peace agreements, the safe release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and a recognition of Israel’s right to exist. These terms appear to have generated an initially favorable reaction, according to Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who also stressed the need to maintain and expand the shaky Gaza ceasefire. (more…)

PM Olmert came and left… Now what?

November 21, 2006

Last Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with President Bush to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the violence in Gaza, and the way forward for addressing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  Although this meeting was an opportunity for real progress on these and other difficult issues, it failed to produce any significant indication of movement on the peace process or stemming the recent escalation of violence in Gaza.  This is despite the fact many asserted that the recent U.S. mid-term elections showed a determination among the U.S. public for new policies in the Middle East, including Israel.  In addition a recent poll highlighted by Brit Tzedek V’Shalom shows 2/3 of Israelis in support of negotiating with a Palestinian unity government. 

It is time for the Bush administration to engage fully on this issue.  In the past week alone, even as the violence in Gaza has increased, the Palestinians took steps towards formation of a unity government while Arab league foreign ministers met in an emergency session in Egypt to call for a new international peace conference to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

During their talks, President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert reaffirmed their shared commitment to the two-state solution, but there is still no actual movement toward that goal.  American commitment to the peace process will take more than statements of support.  It requires direct and sustained U.S. involvement.  CALME’s voice continues to be one that believes President Bush should seize this moment to vigorously pursue a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the fulfillment of two states.

New Diplomacy for the Middle East

November 20, 2006

New Diplomacy for the Middle East
By CALME Luminary Ambassador Marc Grossman

Before they have even been drafted, the possible recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Hamilton, hang like a giant mirror over Washington.  The Administration, the Congress, the war’s critics and supporters, all see reflected back to them their ideas and policies about how to save Iraq and US interests in the region.  

The ISG will have important things to say about the future of Iraq.   Let us hope they will also connect what so urgently needs to be done in Iraq to a larger American strategy in the Middle East.  The Administration should dedicate 2007 to trying to solve simultaneously the three great challenges facing America in the region: making peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the need for Iraq to be a unified, peaceful country which can govern itself and the requirement to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  (more…)

Meretz USA Weekly Update – Focus on Olmert/Bush Meeting and Iran

November 17, 2006

Meretz USA Weekly Update – November 17, 2006
Below is a summary of recent news items from Israel and the Middle East

Focus on: Olmert/Bush Meeting and Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s meeting with President Bush, which occurred on Monday, made the headlines because of his pronouncement that the Iraq War had brought stability to the Middle East and had contributed positively to Israel’s strategic position in the region.  Other than that, it was reviewed as having accomplished nothing more than reaffirming the status quo. 

Nevertheless, with its focus on the Iranian nuclear threat, the discussion marked a change for Israel’s Prime Minister.  Ha’aretz’s Aluf Benn pointed out that, in the past, Olmert has avoided high-profile attacks on Iran, leaving that job to far-right Israelis.  But recently, he has been playing up the threat.  (more…)

Important Words from an Israeli Seeking a Better Future

November 16, 2006

Acclaimed Israeli author David Grossman took the stage at the annual tribute to the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv last month, and delivered a remarkable speech on the current situation in the region, and the need for the Israeli government to take more action to bring about a peaceful resolution.  Grossman has a particularly poignant perspective on the issue, as his 20 year-old son Uri was killed during operations in Lebanon last summer.

He says, “Every thinking person in Israel—and, I will add, in Palestine as well—knows today precisely the outline of a possible solution to the conflict between the two peoples. All thinking people, in Israel and in Palestine, know deep in their hearts the difference between, on the one hand, their dreams and wishes, and on the other, what they can get at the end of the negotiations. Those who don’t know that, whether Jews or Arabs, are already not part of the dialogue. Such people are trapped in their hermetic fanaticism, so they are not partners…

“Appeal to the Palestinians, Mr. Olmert. Appeal to them over Hamas’s head. Appeal to the moderates among them, to those who, like you and me, oppose Hamas and its ideology. Appeal to the Palestinian people. Speak to their deepest wound, acknowledge their unending suffering…Make them an offer that their moderates can accept (there are far more of them than the media shows us). Make them an offer, so that they will have to decide whether to accept it, or instead remain hostages to fanatical Islam. Go to them with the boldest, most serious plan that Israel is able to put forward. A plan that all Israelis and Palestinians with eyes in their heads will know is the limit of refusal and concession, ours and theirs.”

The full text of his speech may be found after the break.