History is unlikely to be kind to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel. He disastrously mismanaged the 2006 Lebanon war. And now, besmirched by financial scandals, he has announced plans to leave office as soon as a successor can be confirmed. Olmert does, however, understand that a two-state solution with the Palestinians is vital for Israelâ€™s security. We hope that his successor brings a greater sense of urgency to the negotiations.
There has always been a wide gap between what Olmert understands about peace settlement and what he has done about it. Merely meeting the Palestinian Authority president,
Mahmoud Abbas, for periodic talks is not enough. Without jeopardizing its security, Israel could take important steps to improve the lives of Palestinians and give them a real stake in peace. Olmert could burnish his legacy, and the prospects for an agreement, if he announced a full freeze on expansion of Jewish settlements and reduced the number of roadblocks in the West Bank that are strangling the Palestinian economy.
President Bush also could bring some luster to his disastrous legacy if he truly engaged in the peace effort: providing a lot more support, encouragement and, yes, pressure to get the Israelis and the Palestinians to do what is necessary to move toward a peace deal.