Update on this post, May 8:
Prime Minister Olmhert has said he will resign as Israel’s Prime Minister if he is indicted. This will further delay a peace agreement by the end of the year.
Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert now says he is ready to make “tangible changes” in the West Bank. He promised those changes to Palestinian President Mahmoud after the two leaders met on Monday in Olmert’s official residence. Jerusalem newspaper Ha’aretz reported that Olmert “understands that their months of peace talks must be accompanied by action on the ground”.
The two leaders met for two hours after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “urged Israel to do more to improve living conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank.” Meanwhile, trapped behind a massive wall which has been built on their land in a blatant land grab which violates international law, Palestinians have little reason to expect anything other than continued expansion of settlements and harsh attacks in Gaza.
A senior Israeli official assured Israel’s Army Radio that Olmert and Abbas had made “significant progress on the borders issue.” Since the Palestinians insist that the permanent border between Israel and Palestine must be on the Green Line which was established in 1967, it is hard to imagine any “tangible change” Olmert will make. Will the wall be taken down? Will settlements be removed? Of course not. Olmert is so politically weak that he is a “partner for peace” without equity.
There have been five legal cases brought against Olmert since his government took office two years ago. Olmert has not been charged in the most recent corruption investigations. He has never been convicted of wrongdoing. The corruption probes, however, have reduced his politicaL standing. Olmert also has been “battered”, according to Ha’aretz, “by the inconclusive 2006 war in Lebanon, and ongoing Palestinian rocket and mortar fire at Israel from the Gaza Strip.”
Olmert’s political career is expected to end soon. George Bush leaves office in January, 2009. And there are reports that President Abbas will give his negotiations with Olmert two or three more months. After which some of Abbas’ aides predict he will consider resigning if he concludes the talks have failed. Previousl Israeli promises have produced no “tangible changes”.
Three new leaders will start over in January, 2009. They will need more than “promises, promises” if they expect to address an increasingly dire humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza.