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October 13, 2008

Boston Globe Editorial Overlooks Palestinian Responsibilities

Today’s editorial in the Boston Globe (“Olmert Unbound,? 10/13/08) lauds outgoing Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert for his opinions about what Israel should do to attain peace. In recent interviews with Israeli newspapers, Olmert argued that Israel should withdraw from nearly all of the West Bank, and that Jerusalem should be divided in some form or another.

The Globe, after stating that “Olmert’s remarks are worth heeding,? describes his trajectory as one “traced by other prominent figures, such as former prime minister Ariel Sharon and ... Tzipi Livni.? While encouraging, this pattern of “abandoning unrealizable fantasies ... may not be sufficient to produce the political will needed for a historic compromise with the Palestinians,? the editorial writer adds.

The piece ends with the following thesis: “Olmert was speaking about realities Israelis need to confront. What Israelis need most of all, however, is a leader who can act on those truths.?

It’s a odd prescription.

Has the editorial board forgotten that an Israeli leader did in fact attempt to act on what the Globe considers to be “truths?? Has it forgotten that Yasser Arafat could have had nearly 100 percent of the land Jordan lost in 1967, sovereignty over much of East Jerusalem, and financial support from Europe, America, and international financial institutions, but in a final blunder turned to armed struggle instead of accepting Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton’s peace proposals? Arafat could have hardly expect to receive better terms for a negotiated agreement than those on offer by Bill Clinton, and accepted by Ehud Barak, in late 2000.

Absent from the editorial is any clue that the Palestinians and their leaders, too, must make compromises if any deal is to be struck.

Indeed, perhaps what “Israelis need most of all? isn’t “a leader who can act on [Olmert’s] truths,? as the Globe describes it, but rather a Palestinian leadership with the desire and, more importantly, the ability to promote similar “truths? on the Palestinian side.

Would it not benefit the cause of peace for the Palestinians to acknowledge that Israel cannot be transformed by millions of returning refugees? Currently, many Palestinians, with the encouragement of their leaders in Gaza and the West Bank, continue to cling to the unrealizable fantasy of a “right of return? for the descendants of Palestinian refugees.

And what about anti-peace agitation from political Islamistspressure not only from the Palestinian group Hamas but from as far away as Iran, which was exerted on Palestinian negotiators during negotiations in 2000, and is perhaps even stronger with today’s more powerful versions of Hamas and Iran?

These key points are all tied to a larger concept that must be understood by anyone who hopes to understand the difficulties in achieving Middle East peace: The Palestinians — even more than the Israelis — must take important strides toward compromise, and need leadership that will act in constructive ways. It is the Palestinian side that is in part led by Hamas, an extremist organization that repeatedly announces it will never accept Israel’s existence, and in part by Fatah, which rarely if ever tells its people what they need to hear, perhaps most importantly that Palestinian refugees and their descendants will not be able to flood Israel and achieve the Jewish state’s end through demographics.

The Globe editorial board need not take my word for any of the above. The bolded passages above, which highlight the fact that Israelis (and also Palestinians) need change from the Palestinians, come directly from that newspaper’s editorials about the Mideast conflict from the past few years. One can only hope that they still remember — and will remind readers — this side of the peace equation.

Posted by GI at October 13, 2008 04:27 PM


If the editorial writers at the Globe had more familiarity with Israeli history they would know that this is not the first time that a prime minister facing legal troubles has shifted towards positions favored by the left. Many have speculated that the motive for Ariel Sharon doing this was to curry favor with Israel's left-leaning courts. It would not be surprising if Ehud Olmert had a similar motivation.

For this reason, a better title for the Globe editorial might have been "Olmert bound".

Posted by: Michael at October 13, 2008 05:45 PM

"Yasser Arafat could have had nearly 100 percent of the land"

Why didn't Barak make it a hundred if it was that close. The reality is that the 95% solution was not workable. What was offered was not a viable state. It looked more like a slice of swiss cheese. It was just simply not workable. I am all for a 95 or a 90 percent solution if it is a state without areas within it controlled by Israel with Israels need to enter the airspace and to intrude at its will. I am even for a state along a wall recently built. But, whatever the solution, it has to be viable state without open ended access and meddling.

Posted by: Jack Avramoff at October 14, 2008 10:13 AM

Jack -- it seems strange that you believe Arafat's version over Bill Clinton and his chief negotiator Dennis Ross's account. Ross said it was more than 95 percent, there was no Swiss cheese, and it was quite workable. Clinton, and a Saudi prince, agreed that Arafat blundered dramatically.

Posted by: george at October 14, 2008 12:17 PM

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