I have been following as best I can, the lack of real progress since the Annapolis peace conference in November--originally out a desire to follow George W. Bush's continuing buffoonery as he brings his disastrous destruction of this country's foreign policy to an end. After seven years of neglect, the man suddenly understands that maybe he should be doing something to wipe a little of the muck from his reputation and that of the Republican Party.
He is utterly incapable of wiping the muck from the Constitution, particularly the sections dealing with the duties of the Executive and the Bill of Rights. But nonetheless he pushed for 6 months to get the Annapolis Conference, the conference was held to much fanfare and hot air, and delegates from the Middle East countries did their damnedest to be optimistic. The optimism faded fast by the close of the first of the bi-weekly meetings that were to be held as a the major elements of the "peace process."
As usual, Israel has refused to show good faith by stopping the building of the settlements, continuing its collective punishment of the residents of Gaza, and its continuing arrest and imprisonment of Palestinians without due process. The Israeli government holds Fatah in the Occupied Territories responsible for stopping the violence coming from the only interested party kept out of the negotiations, Hamas, which threw Fatah out of the Gaza Strip. No control, but a demand for control.
Despite that the so called "Road Map" provides the steps for both sides, despite that the road map clearly calls for a halt to expansion of the settlements, Ehud Olmert has refused to call for a moratorium or end. His latest explanation is so myopically one sided and insensitive to the Palestinians that it would be laughable in its absurdity and irony if it were not so morally bankrupt.
Olmert has been visiting Japan, and in a press conference clearly indicated that he would not halt the settlement construction: I quote from an article in Middle East online from Monday, February 25, 2008:
"First of all it is difficult (to stop construction) because you are talking about living entities," Olmert told broadcaster NHK before his departure for Tokyo. "You are talking about people living there. They need to live, they need to express their desire to live. They have children, they want to get married, they want to have homes."
His insensitivity to the desires of normal Palestinians living under the oppressive occupation of their territory is worthy of George W. Bush. It comes from the same moral corruption that refuses to understand the other side of the question.
I always thought that in a dialogue, "we seek first to understand, then to be understood" as Stephen Covey put it. (I never thought I would be recommending one of the The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People for the Middle East peace process, but there you are.)
After reading Olmert's insensitive and almost peevish statement, it is very clear to me that he is just trying to grind the other side down and frustrate the Palestinians into another violent rebellion. This has become clear to the Arab nations as well. They have become so frustrated with the Israeli government's intractability that they are now discussing withdrawing their 2002 peace initiative--which proposed exactly what Israel has been demanding all along: recognition of their existence as a state and security for their borders.
Olmert will not change. The frustrated and foolishly violent splinters of Palestinians who keep sending rockets over the border does not appear about to change. The Israeli assassinations will not stop, nor will their collective punishment of the Palestinians. Nor will the ambitions of the most radical of the Zionists, whose stated aim is to drive the Palestinians off the land and into the surrounding countries.
And when you see articles in the American press about the children in Sderot, the southern Israeli town, wounded by Kassam rockets, you feel bad. You wish that the Palestinians would have enough intelligence and sense to stop their violence. And then you feel worse when you see that the daughter of a Palestinian family, coming out of a store after buying her mother a present, was hit in the back of the head by a rubber bullet and died three days later without regaining consciousness.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), not surprisingly, deny that they used the rubber bullets. They do admit to using tear gas canisters against some young people throwing stones nearby. The Israeli residents of Sderot ask that Ehud Olmert come spend a day or two with them to experience their fear.
And the father of the dead girl is a member of a Palestinian-Israeli group of ex-Palestinian fighters and former soldiers in the IDF. You will see the wounded Israeli children mentioned on the news and in the American and Israeli press, but you will find the story of the dead Palestinian girl only in the Palestinian news services and the International Herald Tribune.
The usual complaint from supporters of Israel when one presents information about the Palestinians' hardships is that the "other side" is not being told. Well, the Palestinian story, here in this country, IS THE OTHER SIDE.
So now you have both sides. Which do you respect more? Ehud Olmert or the Palestinian father? Don't ask me. I have my bias. I am the father of two daughters in a privileged and safe community. Olmert has two daughters and two sons, and his wife is a strong supporter of Peace Now. His older daughter is an outspoken supporter of Machsom Watch, the Israeli woman's group that monitors checkpoints and confronts IDF soldiers about abuses against the Palestinians. That was the story according to Newsday in March of 2006. What they think two years later is an open question. I suspect they haven't changed much.
Demand peace, non-violence, and intelligent negotiations from both sides.