Olmert Promised a Pullout, and Built Settlements

Gershom Gorenberg

I have a new article up at the LA Times explaining Olmert’s legacy: broken promises, more settlements.:

…At last Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, Olmert chose to end his term with the same message with which he began it two years ago. “The Whole Land of Israel is done with,” he said, referring to the dream of permanent Israeli rule over the West Bank. “There’s no such thing.”

For most of Olmert’s life, the Whole Land was his dream. His father served as a Knesset member for a hard-line nationalist party, and Olmert followed him into the business. But five years ago, he stunned the nation by switching sides. To remain a democracy and a Jewish state, he said, Israel had to stop ruling over the disenfranchised Palestinians of the occupied territories. Otherwise, he said, Palestinians would give up on a two-state solution and instead demand the right to vote in Israel — and Jews would become a minority of the electorate in their own country. To avoid that danger, Israel would have to give up most of the West Bank.

In 2006, as head of the new, centrist Kadima party, Olmert was elected on that promise. Addressing parliament as he took office as prime minister, he stressed that his program was “partitioning the land” with the Palestinians. And he pointed out the key obstacle to pulling back: “Continued scattered settlement throughout Judea and Samaria … endangers the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.”

Twenty-eight months later, however, Olmert’s plan has gone almost nowhere. He is engaged in an anemic negotiating process with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Meanwhile, settlements “scattered throughout … Judea and Samaria” keep growing. Official Israeli statistics show 290,000 Israelis living in the West Bank today, an increase of 30,000 in two years… Why has he worked so hard against himself?

Read the full article here, and come back to South Jerusalem to comment.

12 thoughts on “Olmert Promised a Pullout, and Built Settlements”

  1. For me, as a “Right-wing-Orthodox/religious-pro-settler” Israeli, this is all great news. No government headed by the Left has ever knocked down a single settlement in Judea/Samaria. Only the “Right-wing-pro-settlement” Likud has ever done it. That is why Olmert can stay in power as long as possible, as far as I am concerned. The worst governments for the Judea/Samaria settlement movements were “strong-Right-wing” governments, like Begin’s in 1977 which led to the destruction of the Yamit/Sinai settlments and Sharon’s elected in 2003 (which had the largest Right-wing majority in Israel’s history) which destroyed Gush Katif and delegitimized Israel’s presence of all of Judea/Samaria/Gaza by calling it “occupation” and his acceptance of the Road Map which calls for a total freeze on settlement building. The least bad governments for my camp are weak, discredited Left-wing governments of which Olmert’s is a classic example. Fortunately, Kadima’s primary election came out well for us, too. Had Tzippi won a strong majority victory, she could go around babbling about having a “mandate” for giving up more settlements. Luckily, she was a razon-thin victory which has a certain smell of fraud about it (don’t worry Mofaz’s vote contractors also stuffed the ballot boxes), so this will weaken her. I hope SHAS will stay OUT of her next coalition, but that MERETZ will go in. This will mean that here coalition would represent may 30% of the electorate, a coalition with no real mandate or legitimacy to make concessions. Tzippi is an empty-headed nothing, with not an idea in her head, she got where she did by being a lap-dog to Sharon. She never would have even been able to enter the Knesset if she had not been the daughter of a (far-Right-wing) Knesset Member of the Likud, but like most of the MK’s of that corrupt, deceitful party, she had no problem betraying her promises to her voters to protect Gush Katif and to honor the Likud Party members referendum on Gush Katif which Sharon lost, but which they ignored in the end. So much for her “integrity”. In any event her masters in the Oligarchy that controls Isaeli politics and to whom the “police/State Prosecutor’s Office/media Mafia” is loyal, will keep her on a short leash, and I am sure they will turn against her in short order, as they did to previous “Right-wingers” who went to the Left because they smelled the money and power there, but who are still genetically tainted by their past in the ETZEL and Likud or the Religious Parties (examples are Aryeh Deri, who went to jail, Ezer Weizman, forced out of office after bribery was revealed, Yitzhak Mordechai who brought down Netanyahu in 1999 and then was convicted of a sex crime in which the “victim”, tried and failed to withdraw the charges, Sharon’s son Omri who also went to jail, and now Olmert who himself may go to jail [I am not claiming these people are innocent, but the Mafia I referred harasses politicians they don’t like with investigations or prosecution, for political reasons, and not out of some interest in pursuing justice. It is more a matter of “get something on him!”]). I am sure Tzippi is aware of these precedents.

  2. Ben-David,

    I am a little confused – if the settlements continue to frustrate the process towards Palestinian statehood to the point where the PA is dismantled (and thus creating a situation where the birth-rate-heavy Arabs would rightfuly demand a vote, effectively giving them more of a say in government than the Jewish population of Eretz Yisroel), would not that be a GIGANTIC threat to the Jewish democratic State of Israel?

    So nu, how is this good news for you again?

  3. Aaron, I believe YBD is thinking along the lines of the “two-state solution” the likes of Benny Elon are promoting, that is, Eretz Israel and Jordan.
    Since the creeping ethnic cleansing (make life for Palestinians so unbearable that they leave “voluntarily”) works too slowly, if at all, this would require the “railroad car” approach that Jews with a memory reaching a few years further back than 1948 might just be a little allergic against.

  4. Fiddler-
    Ultimately, Judea/Samaria will have a condominium arrangement wtih both Israel and Jordan sharing control. Jews will be Israeli citizens, Arabs will be Jordanian citizens. Overall security control will be Israel’s which would hopefully be drawn down as security improves. No one is going to be “transferred”, no one is going to be expelled, neither Jews nor Arabs. This arrangement will be informal, and as a matter of fact, is slowly being implemented today, as it is dawning on everyone that the Palestinians are incapable of setting up and running a state.
    Fiddler’s apocalyptic view are a product of his own imagination.

  5. This, of course, assumes that Jordan and the Palestinians would agree to such an arrangement…

    I myself have not seen any developments that reflect that a jointly ran Israeli/Jordanian condominium is being persued. YBD, where have you found support for this plan?

  6. And Israel’s claim to the entire west side of the Jordan valley makes no sense in the context of such an arrangement either. The Jordanians would have to be insane to agree (even if the Palestinians did, which they don’t) to join Israel in administrating a handful of Palestinian enclaves within then-to-be Israel. That’s like asking Armenia if they wanted another Nagorny-Karabach, only that it wouldn’t contain any Armenians.

  7. Aaron points out the flaw in YBD’s condo arrangments – there’s no incentive for Palestinians to go in for the timeshare, no reason to trust that the other side won’t intrude, extend, and create more “facts of the ground” regardless of the legal umbrellas thrown over the arrangement. It’s like promising Okalahoma the Eastern Indians . In the end you have to coerce acceptance because it’s a one-sided solution, drafted by one side for it’s own benefit, with no real incentives for the other.

    Like all plans, it’s there for discussion, while the settlements grow and weak governments do nothing, even when squatters don’t own the land they are settling (like Ofrah – http://www.southjerusalem.com/tag/ofrah/). To what court would the once and future Jordanian citizens of the West Bank take that one? The idea is unworkable and the Palestinians know it. They have to be citizens of someplace, to have redress at the ballot or in the courts.

  8. The Jordanians are already on record as stating this ain’t happening.

    I think both sides need to be realistic about what’s on the ground now, not the ideological impetus of yesteryear. Stating that Israel will keep ALL settlements isn’t realistic; stating that Palestinians won’t accept anything less than the 1948 armistic line is equally unrealistic. (The armistice line itself was never meant to be permanent).

    OTOH, this late-breaking Palestinian “outrage” over settlement building is more souk bargaining than diplomacy — I’ve read Oslo — and the only mention of settlements that I could find simply stated that Israel was responsible for their security, not the PA. Nothing about removing them, nothing about limiting them, and nothing about not building more.

    This is just the current ace in the Palestinian deck and I can’t, given the diplomatic history, take it very seriously. If the Palestinians are serious about a state, then dismantle their internal “refugee camps,” hand in their UNWRA cards and start building housing and infrastructure, and quit educating their kids to believe that someday they will have “Palestine from the River to the Sea” which education is still being promulgated.

    These factors, not terror, are the reasons I find it hard to believe that the PA is serious about peace and state-building.

  9. For that matter, is any side serious about peace?

    Israel talks peace so that the checks from America will keep coming.

    The PA talks peace to keep from alienating the European Union.

    The United States talks peace because it’s expected, but does nothing to promote it in the region.

    In the end, the talk is all “peace when all my conditions are met”, the kind of talk and non-starter diplomatic positions that make it look like you’re interested in peace without making any of the changes or compromises necessary to bring it about.

    Sadly, it appears all sides have their stake in the status quo. Israel with it’s growing community of settlers in the West Bank, the PA with it’s image as a victim of Zionist aggression, the United States politicians with being “good friends of Israel” (also known as “don’t ask hard questions or be too critical” of your friend).

    It will take a great visionary of a leader to change all this. Sadly, as Gershom notes, Olmert wasn’t it.

  10. Today, in the Jerusalem Post there was an article (It seems to have been taken down since this A.M.) saying former National Security Director Giora Eiland (a former General in the IDF) was saying exactly what I was saying, that the only possibility is an INFORMAL condominium in Judea/Samaria.
    John Sterns-the Palestinians have EVERY incentive to go for it because it will mean a major improvement in their lives, removing checkpoints, stimulating business, relaxation of Israeli security presence. In fact, it is being implemented today. You can’t expect the Jordanians to say they officially want this, they would be accused of “selling out the Palestinians”, but the Jordanians know an independent Palestinian state would be a mortal threat to the Hashemite regime in Jordan.
    The Palestinians have to decide if they view their main role in life is to be cannon fodder for the war to the death of Israel that the Arab world is pushing on them, or do they want to cut the best deal they can get. Dexter Filkins, a writer for the New York Times covered the war in Ira1

  11. Sorry-pushed the wrong button-I wanted to say that Dexter Filkins covered the war in Iraq up to 2006 and he just visited Baghdad for the first time since then and he can’t believe how much improved and relaxed the situation has become, although it is still fragile. He thought the hate and fear between the Shiites and Sunnis was so great that no peaceful life would be possible for decades, yet it is being restored now…so we can not give up hope. I believe that the Palestinians, now 15 years after Oslo and seeing how Arafat’s regime was a disaster for them, will realize that relaxation in relations with Israel is possible without forcing them through phony negotiations and “peace processes” that give “peace prizes” to the leaders but only misery to the great bulk of the population are NOT the way to go.

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