What Ehud Olmert should – but probably didn't – tell George Bush

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What Ehud Olmert should – but probably won’t – tell George Bush last Wednesday in the White House.

Thanks for seeing me, George. This may be my last meeting with you as Israel s prime minister.

I m in a pinch, you know, and I m fighting to save my political life. All these calls in recent days for me to resign have broadened my perspective. They have actually inspired me to speak bluntly to you.

You still have more than six months in office, time you can use to do some good in our region. The window of opportunity for peace that we both saw two years ago should not come slamming down on your fingers. It is up to you to hold the window open now.

Please, let me have your attention for just a few minutes. Please focus on these points. There are only three and they are pretty simple:

The peace process with the Palestinians is going nowhere at an alarming speed. What Abu-Mazen and I agree on behind closed doors matters very little as long as there is no improvement of the situation on the ground. Read the reports by your own envoys to the region. They are correct: We are still building in West Bank settlements, we have not removed any illegal outposts and we have lifted only a handful of the 600 roadblocks in the West Bank.

Why? Because you never unequivocally demanded that we do so. The only way an Israeli prime minister can face internal opposition to measures such as a freeze on settlements and removing outposts and roadblocks is by telling the Israeli public: I gave my word to the Americans and our relationship with Washington is our number one strategic asset. Because of the mixed messages from your administration, I couldn t use that argument.

Everyone would have seen right through it.

I know that you hate it when I bring up talks with Syria, but allow me to be frank, George: you are not being reasonable on this issue. Listen, we need a peace deal with Syria and we see an opportunity to sway Assad away from Tehran. It s in your interest as much as it is in ours. Get serious, George: You can t just sit on the sidelines while Turkey tries to broker peace between us and the Syrians. I need your help on the Syrian track and if I don t survive this crisis, whoever comes after me will need it even more.

America will only gain from Israeli-Syrian peace, and you know it.

Neither of us seriously engaged with the Arab League s peace plan. That was a mistake, George. My intelligence community sees an opportunity there. This Arab initiative may provide us with a tool to introduce a paradigm shift in our relations with the entire Arab world. Progress toward comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace could be used as a key lever toward further isolating Iran. We both have our qualms about the Arab initiative, sure. But, George, if we harness this plan to talk with the Palestinians and the Syrians, we could give a real boost to moderates in the region. Why not make the Arab League s peace initiative a key component of an American regional diplomatic strategy? You do have one, right?

George, there is very little I can do right now to bring peace to my people.

Even if I figure out a way to stay in office for a while, I don t have my people s confidence to make any bold moves on my own. Time is running out for you too, but it s far from over. Let s face it: Neither of us will go down in history as the leader who brought peace between Arabs and Jews.

I may go down as a leader who didn t try hard enough. But you, at least, can hand over a more promising Middle East to your successor. History will thank you for that. So will Israelis.

Now, how are things back at the ranch?

Ori Nir, former West Bank correspondent for the Israeli daily Ha aretz, is the spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, a Jewish organisation that promotes Israel s security through peace. His e-mail is [email protected]. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.

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