MideastWeb Middle East Web Log

log  archives  middle east  maps  history   documents   countries   books   encyclopedia   culture   dialogue   links    timeline   donations 


Olmert visits the emperor - convergence and roadmap to disaster


Israeli PM Olmert is in Washington to advance his agenda. It is not the first time a newly elected leader is going to Washington to win the approval of the Emperor. Haven't we seen this movie before? The most recent example was Mahmoud Abbas, who visited Washington, and got nothing twice.

Of the second Bush-Abbas meeting I wrote:

It seems like a re-run of the last time Abbas visited the Emperor. Bush said what he said, and Abbas said what he said, and everyone simled for the cameras.

Was that worth a trip to Washington??? You tell me.

In both cases, it is not true that the trip had no value. It had negative value. It demonstrated that the Bush administration is not interested in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis except as a side show to be managed, and doesn't recognize the urgency of the problems at hand. The failure of the Bush administration to support Abbas in any real public way contributed materially to the rise of the Hamas.

Now we are in for a sequel, with Olmert visiting Washington. Olmert will not get support for his convergence plan, nor will he get any US commitment to take effective action against the Iranian threat. At most, he will get some lip service on these issues and probably a statement about the boycott of the Hamas. Shmuel Rosner explains in Haaretz:

Now is not a good time for the U.S. to be dealing with the convergence plan. Olmert's visit, after all, is far from topping the public agenda in the United States, which is focused now on securing approval for the construction of the separation fence between Arizona and Mexico, and not the one between Hebron and Gush Etzion.

As stated, half in jest, by an official involved in the U.S.-Israel contacts: When it comes down to a choice between Olmert's political clock, which requires quick action, and Bush's clock, which requires waiting, "I think the president will go for the watch on his own wrist."

Time is what we don't have, because every day that the Hamas remains in power, and that Palestinian misery continues and that the hope of a negotiated peace recedes, brings us closer to disaster. The exact shape of the disaster is not clear, but it will not be pretty. It may make the violence of the "Second Intifada" seem like child's play, or it may involve real starvation and suffering of Palestinians or even a regional war kindled by Iran or Syria to take the world's eyes off their own misdeeds.
Rosner wrote:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's visit to Washington this week can already be deemed "a success" or "a failure" - both correct, both exaggerated.

The success is in the fact that the visit will be conflict free, because the Americans will shower Olmert with respect as only they know how; they will welcome him with warm words and red carpets, and they will stand and applaud his address to Congress. The failure is in that he is unlikely to make much
headway with his convergence plan. As things stand now, Olmert will run into a rather fortified wall on this matter.

Rosner is wrong on two counts. The visit will certainly be a failure if Olmert comes away empty handed, regardless of ceremonies. Nobody was fooled by Abbas's debacle in Washington, and nobody will be fooled by Olmert's debacle either. The visit will certainly not be conflict free because there are apparently real differences of opinion about what to do about Iran - not mentioned by Rosner. Olmert and Bush have apparently agreed, according to another article in Haaretz, on a charade concerning the convergence plan:

The main topics of their meeting will be Iran's nuclear program, the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian Authority and Olmert's unilateral "convergence" plan for evacuating West Bank settlements. Olmert will present the principles of this plan, but the two leaders will not discuss it in detail.

By prior agreement, the president will express interest in Olmert's "new ideas" but will not offer explicit American support for the plan, and no timetable will be set for its implementation.

Washington will use the meeting to pressure Olmert to negotiate with the Palestinians - and to bring unnamed "additional countries" into the peace process:

However, a senior administration official said Sunday that the United States also has "new ideas for advancing the peace process," and that American officials will present these ideas to Olmert during his visit. Among other things, it is necessary to bring "additional countries" into the circle of those supporting the peace process, the official said.

It is certainly a good idea to get more countries to support the peace process. This approach is somewhat of an improvement over the days of unilateral action by the US. It is unclear what countries the US wants to involve and why. The US has traditionally guarded its role as superpower peacemaker between the Israelis and the Palestinians rather zealously against European challengers. What can they gain by involving other countries? The US administration may want an international conference, generally beloved of administrations run by members of the Bush familiy and anathema to Israel. Bush may want to bring Russia into the peace process in order to get Russian support for action on Iran as a quid pro quo. Possibly, the administration wants to get Arab support for the peace process by adopting the Saudi peace initiative.

The big problem is, that the US administration seems to think, and Olmert most likely agrees that there is absolutely no point to involving anyone in any peace process because there can be no peace process as long as the Hamas is in power, and that Mahmoud Abbas cannot control the situation:

The administration, he added, will make it clear to Olmert that America believes the way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is via the road map peace plan and direct negotiations with the Palestinian leadership. Yet at the same time, the administration recognizes that the current Hamas government "is not an address for negotiations," and that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has not lived up to expectations - and may therefore not be able to serve as such an address either.

What is the point of insisting on a "peace process" if you believe that there is no partner? It is just verbiage apparently.

Even more dismaying is the fact that everyone is apparently clueless as to how to prevent the Palestinian territories from deteriorating into chaos. According to the article, the US will ask Olmert (!?!) for his ideas about how to prevent chaos in the Palestinian terrtiories. So the US is clueless about how to prevent chaos there, but nonetheless wants Israel to negotiate. With whom and about what?

Olmert, for his part, has also gone on the record, perhaps unwisely, with his views about different matters before the White House meeting, in a CNN interview. About Abbas he said:

I'd certainly love to think that Mahmoud Abbas is capable of handling negotiations for the Palestinian people. In fact, I respect Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.....

But as it turns out, I'm afraid that President Mahmoud Abbas doesn't have even the power to take charge of his own government. So how can he represent that government in the most crucial, complex and sensitive negotiations, about which there are so many divisions within the Palestinian community? This is not a personal issue.

Olmert was trying to rule out negotiations with Abbas, at the same time as Israel is negotiating with Abbas. Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni and Shimon Peres met with Abbas to plan a meeting with Olmert. If Abbas is powerless, what are they negotiating about, and what will Olmert say if the US forces him to negotiate with Abbas even though Abbas is not in charge of his own government?

In the interview, Olmert also put himself out on a limb on the Iranian nuclear weapons program. He stated:

The issue of Iran is a very serious one. And the question is not when, technically, they will be in possession of nuclear bomb. The question is when will they cross the technological line that will allow them at any given time, within six or eight months, to have nuclear bomb? And this technological threshold is nearer than we anticipated before. This is because they are already engaged very seriously in enrichment....

The technological threshold is very close. It can be measured by months rather than years.

What is this technological threshold that Olmert is talking about? Perhaps he means getting a foolproof cascade working. It is an arbitrary line, but Americans believe, or say they believe, as we saw previously, that Iran is several years away from developing nuclear weapons. Therefore, Olmert's hope to get international action against Iran will probably be frustrated. He told CNN:

America and Europe are leading this international effort. It is now on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council, and many countries are involved in trying to stop this, and I hope that they will succeed. We will certainly try to convince other countries how urgent it is and why it is so important that, at this time before they cross the technological threshold, that the measures will be taken to stop them.

The US will disappoint him, and when Olmert leaves the US without a strong statement about Iran, it will send a signal to Mr. Ahmadinejad that nobody is really serious about stopping the Iranians.

In the face of the different looming disasters, Ehud Olmert seems like a vehicle travelling on a fixed road, knowing quite well that the road leads off a cliff. He has a program, but the program doesn't correspond with reality. The Americans on the other hand, have no plan, and are more worried about other matters and don't want to be bothered.

Olmert's convergence plan can't be "sold" to the EU or the US or even to most Israelis in large part because the Gaza disengagement plan is a failure. It is a failure for Israel because it helped trigger the rise of the Hamas as well as the constant and increasing bombardment by rockets. It is a failure for the Palestinian people because they are in effect blockaded in a big Gaza prison. The closing of the Karni crossing to allow export of goods ruined what was left of the Palestinian economy. The disastrous failure of the green houses, donated by Jewish philanthropists to the Palestinians, is an illustrative and dramatic symptom of the condition of an entire people that cannot but promote despair. The green houses that were not trashed by Palestinians are being put out of business by the closure of Karni. Israel reopened the transit point, but it is too late.

Everyone can understand that restoring order in Gaza requires active cooperation of an international security force. The IDF could restore order, but if the IDF enters Gaza and restores order, it will certainly be the end not only of the peace process, which is already dead, but of any hope for peace in our generation. Instead of asking Olmert how to stop the chaos, the US should be busy organizing a force that can be used to stop the chaos. Before asking for support for another disengagement plan, Olmert and the Israeli government have to show Israelis, Europeans, the EU and the Palestinians that the Gaza disengagement is not an irremediable catastrophe.

As for Iran, if Olmert believes it is a problem for the international community, then the best thing he can do is shut up about it. If President Ahmadinejad had not succeeded so well in injecting the Israel issue into the equation, the Arab states would probably be more forthcoming in cooperating in efforts to stop Iranian nuclear development. The more Israel talks about the problem, the less feasible it is to get Arab public opinion to support action against Iran.

Finally, instead of going off to the USA to be rebuffed, Mr. Olmert should have stayed in Israel until he had a plan of action that could be the basis for Israeli-US cooperation and for furthering the peace process.

Ami Isseroff

If you like this post - click to Reddit!
add to del.icio.usAdd to digg - digg it

Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000461.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Moderator @ 03:03 PM CST [Link]


Middle East e-Zine

Midde East News

Opinion Digest

Late Updates


Middle East Glossary

Middle East Maps

Middle East Books

Middle East Documents

Israel-Palestine History

Israel-Palestine Timeline

Middle East Countries

Middle East Economy

Middle East Population

Middle East Health

Zionism History

Palestinian Parties

Palestinian Refugees

Peace Plans


Middle East


Blog Links

OneVoice - Israeli-Palestinian Peace Blog

Bravo411 -Info Freedom

Israel News


Michael Brenner

Dutchblog Israel

Dutch - IMO (Israel & Midden-Oosten) Blog (NL)



Alas, a Blog

Little Green Footballs

Blue Truth

Fresno Zionism

Reut Blog

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Blog

Simply Jews: Judaism and Israel

Jeff Weintraub - Commentaries and Controversies

Vital Perspective


Meretz USA Weblog


MIDEAST observer

On the Contrary

Blogger News Network- BNN

Google Sex Maps

Demediacratic Nation

Realistic Dove

Tulip - Israeli-Palestinian Trade Union Assoc.

On the Face

Israel Palestjnen (Dutch)

Middle East Analysis

Israel: Like This, As If

Middle East Analysis

Mid_East Journal

Z-Word Blog

Dvar Dea

SEO for Everyone

Web Sites & Pages

Israeli-Palestinian Procon

End Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: One Voice


ATFP- American Task Force on Palestine

Americans For Peace Now

Shalom Achshav

Chicago Peace Now


Peacechild Israel

Bridges of Peace


Israeli-Palestinian Conflict



Zionism and Israel

Zionism and Israel on the Web

Israel - Palestina:Midden-Oosten Conflict + Zionisme

Israël in de Media

Euston Manifesto

New Year Peace


Christian Zionism

Jew Hate

Space Shuttle Blog

Israel News Magazine


My Ecosystem Details
International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Link 2 us
We link 2 U.
MidEastWeb- Middle East News & Views
MidEastWeb is not responsible for the content of linked Web sites

Replies: 8 comments

Are we again in 1938? Just put Israel instead of Tchechoslovakia.

Are the Anglo-Saxon countries doing now with the Iranians what they did then with Hitler. He could have been stopped in 1935 when he occupied the Rheinland. The French were already putting their artillery on the bridge in Kehl (near Strassbourg) when the English stopped them "please no war".

This today reminds me very much of those times. Does the world ever learn something?

Posted by J - M @ 05/23/2006 08:21 AM CST

Ami, it seems to me that one important question is: would negotiating with Abbas, despite his weakness, improve the situation (as suggested by Beilin) or worsen it? Abbasand Beilin claim that Israel can negotiate with Abbas, and then the Hamas will be forced by public opinion to accept a deal. It is alsopossible that going back to a state of continuous negotiations will promote stability and enable Abbas to take stronger actions to stop terrorism. On the other hand it is possible that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are ready to make the necessary concessions, and that the failure of such an attempt + any continued Palestinian terrorism and Israeli human rights violations, will make things worse, and unilateral withdrawl is better.

Furthermore, isn't it in Israel's interest to try to negotiate with Hamas on a more official ceasefire? The hamas doesn't seem to want to fight at the moment. Shouldn't Israel encourage this direction?

In any case I don't think it is a good idea to bering in an international military force. If the Palestinians are committed to continued terrorism such a force will be reluctant, not motivated and probably incapable of dealing with them with force. They will end up blaming Israel for their casualties and allowing terrorism to continue and preventing other solutions. An International force will be useful only if it wil be accepted by the Palestinians, who will themselves decide to stop fighting.

As for Iran, Israel cannot do much at this stage. Even if Iran is comparable to Nazi Germany, we do not yet seem to be in the stage in which war has become justified. the Iranian president may be crazy, but he has not done anything yet. Starting a war now would be like starting a war with Germany in 1934. In retrospect it may have been a good idea but it would not have been justified at least until 35. Since neither Israel nor the US has the ability or legitimacy for a military option, diplomacy seems to be the only choice, at least for now.

Posted by Micha @ 05/23/2006 10:16 PM CST

"...neither Israel nor the US has the ability or legitimacy for a military option..."

Care to rethink that comment soldier?

Posted by McBride, Staff Sgt USMC @ 05/24/2006 07:21 AM CST

"Care to rethink that comment soldier?"

Not really.

After Iraq it is doubtful Bush could get support even in the US for a premptive strike.

The Israeli government could have the legtimacy for an attack in Israel but not outside. Israel might (literaly) fly in the face of world public opinion. it is already considered crazy; but it might be reluctant to do this at this juncture, especially with the slim chances for military success. Furthermore, the Iranian retaliation against Israel (even in response to an American attack), with missles or terrorism will be considered legitimate by too many, and might retroactively erode the support for the attack in Israel. Is it worth for Israel to risk an Iranian retaliation with the chances for military success so small.

On the miltary level, at the moment it seems that an aerial attack against Iran (by Israel or the US) is unlikely to succeed since Iran's nuclear instillations are hidden and spread out.

Israel cannot mount a full ground attack against Iran in regard to manpower or access, and US forces are too extended in Iraq.

This leaves only too military alternatives: commando attack or sabotage. A commando attack incurs the risk of retaliation even assuming it were to succeed. And sabotage is not something we can discuss since we don't know the American or Israeli intelligence capabilities in that regard.

So, the success of a military option doubtful, legitimacy nonexistant.

Posted by Micha @ 05/24/2006 07:37 PM CST

Dear Ami

Didn't the Palestinians ask for an international force a few years ago? Didn't the Americans veto the proposal? Also if Iraq is any indication the West might be reluctant to make peace. Also Hamas will certainly be suspicous of the West?

Posted by Butros @ 05/24/2006 10:31 PM CST

The Palestinians wanted an international force for two reasons:
1) They hoped that the international community will force Israel to accept their terms.
2) They wanted an international force as a buffer between them and the Israeli army.

Israel opposed this for the same reasons.

However, if the Palestinians will continue the "armed struggle", which is quite likely, it is doubtful an international force will handle it successfully. They will end up being in the way, hated both by Israelis and Palestinians, and hating them in return.

Posted by Micha @ 05/25/2006 03:01 PM CST

May 24th, 2006

President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500 Senator Richard Durbin
332 Dirksen Senate Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510 Senator Barak Obama
713 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear President Bush, and Senator Durbin, and Senator Obama,

The United States must vigorously push for justice for Palestinians and not cut off aid to Palestine.

Israeli actions are destructive to the interests of the United States. Israel has carved the Occupied Territories into miserable little ghettos and tries to drive the Palestinian Muslims and Christians out of their land. The Israelis create despair and provoke radicalism and endless war.

“Christian Zionists”, are fundamentalists who give Israel a blank check to oppress the Palestinians. They error to think the State of Israel is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. As Wheaton College Professor Gary Burge explains in his book “Whose Land, Whose Promise”, the Bible says it is not those who rejected Christ, but those who followed Christ, Jews plus non-Jews who are “adopted children of Abraham”, who are the New Israel that will inherit the promise of the Covenant,. Further, the Covenant is not to be fulfilled by land. This was the traditional position of all Christianity until modern times. Christian Zionist notions of the State of Israel as a fulfillment of prophecy are a deviation. Professor Burge writes further that ancient Israel did not discriminate against non-Jews; that the Bible says that Israel was a tenant on the land, and that holding the land was conditional on obedience to commands, expressly including just treatment of the non-Jews. Israel forfeits any claim today because of evil toward the Palestinians.

The United States is a signatory to UN Resolution 242 which demands that Israel get out of the Occupied Territories. Every people has the right to self defense against an occupying army. Israel deliberately provokes desperate Palestinian reaction to distract world attention from continual action to drive Palestinians out. We must remember the first Intifada was provoked by Israeli violence, and the second Intifada was provoked by Sharon’s declaration on the Temple Mount that Israel was assuming sovereignty over the Arab holy places

Israel claims that Prime Minister Ehud Barak made a “generous” peace offer that Arafat refused. This story is revealed as a fraud that offers Palestinians only perpetual subjugation, maintaining the division of their land in little ghettos surrounded by Israeli guns. Israel exponents further tout Israel as a democracy, and a US asset for stability in the Middle East. Conscientious Israeli dissenters give abundant and unimpeachable testimony that Israel brings not democracy, but terror and tyranny, to Palestinians. Israel is not an asset for stability. Rather, it is the primary cause of conflict in the Middle East.

To permit religious notions of the Christian Zionists to determine US foreign policy is to be party to great evil against Palestinians. It is a prescription for endless war with Islam, and is destructive to America. The way to peace is for the United States to recognize a free Palestinian state without preconditions, and press Israel to get completely out of the Occupied Territories. The Israeli government is too heavily influenced by extremists to get out without heavy American pressure. America should offer refuge in the United States to Israeli settlers who will get out of the Occupied Territories. It was a tragic and enormous injustice to help Holocaust victims to seek refuge at the expense of the people who have owned the land since the Roman Emperor Hadrian expelled the Jews.

Sincerely yours,

Lamont Phemister

Posted by Lamont Phemister @ 05/27/2006 07:10 PM CST

Dear Lamont,
this is an excellent summary of the anti-Zionist myths about Israel and the history of the conflict. It is almost hilarious but I suspect you are serious, so I will answer seriously.

Christian Zionists are no more fundamentalists than Muslims; to call all Christian Zionists fundamentalists is as bad as calling all Muslims terrorist fanatics. There are a lot of Christian Zionists who support Israel because they support Jewish restoration in their ancient homeland, not because they hate Palestinians or Muslims. The Bible can be read in many ways, as is true for the Qu'ran, and both can be used to justify very different positions.
See for example: http://www.judeo-christianalliance.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=37&Itemid=74

Resolution 242 calls for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in the 1967 war (not 'the' territories) and the right of all states in the region 'to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries'. Arab states and the Palestinians didn't abide by this resolution either, but that doesn't seem to bother you.

"Every people has the right to self defense". Very true. Israel defended itself against the Palestinians and other Arabs who waged war against it in 1948, and did so again as Egypt and Syria threatened to annihilate the state in 1967, after Egypt had sent away the UN peacekeeping force in the Sinai and closed the Straits of Tiran for Israeli shipping, against international law.

Long before the Israeli occupation, and before the state was founded it were the Palestinians who started violence to drive the Zionists out of Palestine. Haj Amin Al Husseini, grand mufti of Jerusalem, said in 1948: "I declare a holy war, my Moslem brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!" Husseini was a known Nazi collaborator who fled the Neurenberg trials. He had instigated several Arab riots and pogroms against the Jews in Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s.
Read more about him at: http://www.zionism-Israel.com/dic/Haj_Amin_El_Husseini.htm

Barak offered the Palestinians a contiguous state, first in about 90% of the West Bank, later in some 95%, with a division of Jerusalem. You may think this offer unfair, it were no Bantustans. (See: http://www.mideastweb.org/lastmaps.htm)
The Palestinians refused it in the first place because they stuck to the 'right of return' of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, which would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. But probably you agree to that, and think for some reason that Jews have no right to self determination and were better off as a minority scattered around the world, or you think they deserve no state because they are Jews.

To paraphrase you: The Palestinian government is too heavily influenced by extremists to make peace without heavy American pressure. America should offer refuge in the United States to Palestinian extremists who thwart any peaceful solution of the conflict.

You wrote: "It was a tragic and enormous injustice to help Holocaust victims to seek refuge at the expense of the people who have owned the land since the Roman Emperor Hadrian expelled the Jews."
First, Zionism existed long before the Holocaust and was not caused by it; the Holocaust rather proved in a dramatic way that Zionism was right. Second, the Palestinian Arabs did not own the land and never owned it. It was owned by several powers and empires during history, but there has never been an Arab Palestinian state.

Maybe you should first read a history book before you write a letter to the American president (although I doubt how many books he has read in his life). And no, I don't mean fairy tales like Ilan Pappe writes.

Please share with us the answer you got from Mr. Bush.

Posted by Ratna Pelle @ 05/28/2006 04:35 PM CST

Please do not leave notes for MidEastWeb editors here. Hyperlinks are not displayed. We may delete or abridge comments that are longer than 250 words, or consist entirely of material copied from other sources, and we shall delete comments with obscene or racist content or commercial advertisements. Comments should adhere to Mideastweb Guidelines . IPs of offenders will be banned.

Powered By Greymatter

[Previous entry: "Iranian unclear weapons program and the world's unclear response"] Main Index [Next entry: "Olmert in Washington: A guide to the perplexed"]


Thank you for visiting MidEastWeb - Middle East.
If you like what you see here, tell others about the MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log - www.mideastweb.org/log/.

Contact Us


Editors' contributions are copyright by the authors and MidEastWeb for Coexistence RA.
Please link to main article pages and tell your friends about MidEastWeb. Do not copy MidEastWeb materials to your Web Site. That is a violation of our copyright. Click for copyright policy.
MidEastWeb and the editors are not responsible for content of visitors' comments.
Please report any comments that are offensive or racist.

Editors can log in by clicking here

Technorati Profile

RSS FeedRSS feed Add to Amphetadesk Add to Amphetadesk

USA Credit Card - Donate to MidEastWeb  On-Line - Help us live and grow