Photo: AP
Ehud Olmert
Photo: AP

In Ben Gurion's footsteps

Olmert's peace overtures most serious in recent years; Rice may visit

Behind Olmert's olive branch speech to the Palestinians Monday, is the painful assumption that if the IDF will ultimately be called upon to reoccupy the Gaza Strip, Olmert would be able to say he had proposed a different path.


When the prime minister promises to negotiate with the Palestinians over a settlement that would lead to a Palestinian state in the West Bank, with territorial contiguity that would include substantial removal of settlements in the Territories, we should believe that he means what he says.


True, there was nothing in Olmert's speech that he hasn’t said before, but on Monday, beside the gravesite of Israel's first Prime Minister Ben Gurion, he reiterated past statements pledging that he would follow in Ben Gurion's footsteps.


"Does anyone have a better proposal than achieving calm through negotiations?" an Olmert associate asked Monday evening. We have to admit that following months of fighting and deployment in the Gaza Strip, the IDF has not been able to prevent the firing of Qassam rockets towards Sderot.


Moreover, despite the Shin Bet's intelligence information in the West Bank and in Gaza, aimed at preventing terror activity, the Palestinians' motivation to inflict harm on Israel has not waned; the contrary is true.


The announcement of the ceasefire, Olmert's speech and the maneuvers we are set to witness in the coming days are the outcome of discreet dialogue between Olmert's and Abbas' advisors, who had met several times throughout recent months. This is probably the most serious attempt to renew dialogue between the two sides in recent years.


Beware of euphoria

The formula consolidated in the covert meetings looks like this: Firstly, quiet - calming of the security situation in the south and later the establishment of a Palestinian unity government that would enable renewal of talks between the leaders, within the framework of which Palestinian prisoners (in unprecedented numbers) would be exchanged for abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.


Olmert is set to meet Tuesday with American envoys Elliott Abrams and David Welch, who will arrive in the region before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush arrive in Amman, Jordan.


The political establishment estimates that if the ceasefire holds, Rice will pay a short visit to Israel towards the end of the week to give a push to those involved in the peacemaking process. The chances of a summit between Olmert and Abbas this week are slim, according to the prime ministers' aides.


Olmert's advisors are giving all the credit to Mahmoud Abbas, who managed to get the consent for a ceasefire from all the Palestinian factions.


We must, however, beware of euphoria; we've been there before.


פרסום ראשון: 11.28.06, 20:07
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