Almost answering my previous question on "what type of Israel to we want?" the Israeli Knesset has passed a bill compensating settlers who voluntarily leave Judea and Samaria.
According to the bill NIS 1.1 million will be given to each family that voluntarily moves from isolated areas of Judea and Samaria to the Negev. Vice Premier Haim Ramon said that 18% of the settlers east of the security fence were prepared to leave of their own accord.
Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Ehud Olmert said that the idea of "Greater Israel" was over.
|'Greater Israel' is finished. There is no such thing as that anymore. Whoever talks in those terms is only deluding himself," said the prime minister at the weekly cabinet during which Vice Premier Haim Ramon's evacuation-compensation bill was discussed.|
"It doesn't help Israel. The international community has changed its perspective ahead of the possibility of Israel becoming a bi-national state. We can prove that we were always the initiators and were more creative and that it was the other side that was more stubborn. However, as usual, we are winning the argument but are gradually going to lose the most important thing," he said.
Olmert explained that although excellent justifications could be brought as to why talk of of concessions to the Palestinians should be postponed, time was "not ticking in Israel's favor."
Olmert admitted that he had changed his mind on the subject. "I admit that I didn't always have this opinion. I thought and I also said to [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak that the concessions he offered at Camp David were exaggerated. I believed that the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean was all ours since in every place there that is excavated, there is evidence of Jewish History.
"But finally, after a lot of suffering and misgivings, I came to the conclusion that we need to share the land with whom we are residing if we don't want to become a bi-national state."
The prime minister emphasized that Israel was the strongest country in the region. "We are strong like no other country in the region, no entity can overcome us," he said. "The strategic threats don't come from questions of where the borders are. We can argue over every small detail but we will then have no peace partner and no international backing. We will just feel that we were right, as we have done for the last 40 years."
Israeli leaders have almost always been willing to give up on parts of their dreams in order to compromise with their protagonists. In contrast; the Palestinian leaders never change and continue to hold out for total victory, that is, for the destruction of the Jewish state.
Former US envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross used to say that to achieve peace Israel must be willing to give up control and the Palestinians must be willing to accept compromise.
Well Israel is willing to give up control. They showed this during Oslo, they showed this when they evacuated Gaza, and this new bill is further evidence supporting this concept. The problem is that the Palestinians haven't moved and are still unable to accept compromise.
Also significant is that steps like this condition the Israeli public for peace (and unfortunately probably also, as Shaul Mofaz argues, raise Palestinian demands). How do the Palestinian leaders condition their public for peace? I would love for one of the members of the SA 'human rights' delegation to inform us.