The hard truth

The hard truth

It’s amazing how brutally honest, an Israeli prime minister can get when he knows his days in office are numbered.
Take Ehud Olmert. The embattled PM, accused of malfeasance in office, both as prime minister and earlier as mayor of Jerusalem, has already tendered his resignation to President Shimon Peres so he can defend himself against the criminal charges that almost certainly will be filed.
This week, Olmert candidly predicted that Israel will have to leave the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, and compensate Palestinians for settlement blocs in a future peace deal.
Specifically, Olmert told the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot, “In the end of the day, we will have to withdraw from the most decisive areas of the territories. In exchange for the same territories left in our hands, we will have to give compensation in the form of territories within the State of Israel.”
As JTA reported, “it was the first time Olmert has been so specific about what he believes peace with the Palestinians would look like.”
Were Olmert not facing criminal charges, and his political career still seemed to have some life left, he would never predict a full-scale withdrawal from what settlers refer to as Judea-Samaria. And he certainly wouldn’t envision sharing Israel’s capital city with neighbors that many Israelis regard as blood enemies.
But except for his status as a caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed, Olmert’s career is finished. He has nothing left to lose; he can freely speak his mind.
Jerusalem likely will have to be shared between Jews and Palestinians. All historical arguments supporting Israel’s rights to an eternally united city mean little under present day circumstances. All that matters is a workable settlement that enables both sides to live in peace and security (we’ll leave harmony for future generations to achieve).
As for the West Bank, it’s hard to justify holding on to the territory when a grand total of 275,000 Israelis have chosen to live there. That’s less than the entire population of the City of Pittsburgh.
Approximately 2.3 million Palestinians live there.
Having said all this, acknowledging the truth of the West Bank and Jerusalem doesn’t mean the Palestinian Authority automatically gets everything it wants. Jews constitute the vast majority of residents in east and west Jerusalem, if not the West Bank. The Jerusalem of today is large and more expansive today than it was 100 years ago. What is and isn’t Jerusalem is very much open to negotiation. We can even envision a scenario where all of Jerusalem remains under Israeli administration but the P.A. government merely meets there, much like the United Nations.
None of this will please opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said he would allow building in existing West Bank settlements to accommodate natural growth.
We hope the next prime minister, most likely Tzipi Livni, will face these issues while her career is still in the present tense, instead of the past.