IN OTHER WORDS: Better late
Ehud Olmert, Israel’s soon to be ex-PM, voiced some startling truths this week. He said that in exchange for peace, Israel should withdraw from “almost all” of the West Bank and share its capital city, Jerusalem, with the Palestinians. He also said that as part of a negotiated peace deal with Syria, Israel should be ready to give up the Golan Heights. It’s frustrating that Olmert, who is stepping down as PM after being accused of corruption, waited so long to say these things. And it is tragic that he did not do more to act on those beliefs when he had real power.
But Olmert was never willing to take even the tactical steps needed to improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians and give them a real stake in peace: fully freezing the expansion of Jewish settlements and sufficiently reducing the roadblocks in the West Bank that are strangling the Palestinian economy. Olmert still deserves credit for putting the most sensitive issues on the table and identifying the only viable formula for a peace agreement.
Tzipi Livni, Olmert’s successor, has been Israel’s chief negotiator for the past year. It is unlikely that she will show any candour while she tries to put together a coalition. But we hope that she takes Olmert’s truths to heart. And we hope she is willing to do what is needed to build a lasting peace.