Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Friday, May 16, 2014

"How the mighty have fallen." Ehud Olmert to Prison

This week former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to six years in prison for taking bribes from property developers in the Holyland Development scandal when he was mayor of Jerusalem before becoming prime minister. He will be the first former prime minister in Israeli history to go to prison. Olmert served for ten years as Jerusalem's mayor, from 1993 to 2003, before becoming a minister in Ariel Sharon's second government. When Sharon broke away from the Likud in late 2005 to form Kadima Olmert went with him as his number two. Sharon then suffered a massive stroke two months later in early January 2006, which put him into a coma from which he never recovered, and Olmert became head of Kadima and then prime minister following elections in March 2006. Olmert only served as Kadima leader for 2.5 years until late 2008 when he was forced to give way to Tzipi Livni, his foreign minister, because he was under indictment for corruption. Tzipi Livni failed to form a new government and elections were called for early 2009. These resulted in Kadima winning one more seat than the Likud but going into opposition because of its inability to form a coalition government. Olmert then retired from politics.

Olmert began politics as an ambitious young political activist in the Herut Party. When Shmuel Tamir challenged Begin's leadership of the party and was suspended he split off to form the Free Center party in early 1967. Olmert went with him and at age 28 was elected to the Knesset on December 31, 1973 at age 28--the youngest ever MK. He began his career as an anti-corruption campaigner. But as mayor of Jerusalem, following the 28-year tenure of internationally-renowned Mayor Teddy Kollek of Rafi/Labor, he developed a reputation as one of the more corrupt figures in Israeli politics eating in fancy restaurants, smoking expensive cigars, and wearing tailor-made suits.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Middle East Blame Game and the Truth

After the op-ed writers and foreign policy bloggers began writing their obituaries on Secretary of State John Kerry's Israeli-Palestinian mediation effort, some began assigning blame. The chief culprits demanding on which side of the partisan divide one stood were Israeli settlement activity and Palestinian intransigence. But in this op-ed piece former State Department Middle East negotiator Aaron D. Miller, deputy to Dennis Ross in the Oslo era, dismisses this and simply states that the two sides were too far apart on all the issues. I made the same prediction for the same reason last August during the release of my most recently-published book, Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution, before the Madison chapter of J Street. In fact I made a Venn diagram to illustrate that there was no overlap between the Israeli and Palestinian positions on the aggregate of issues. In fact in the most serious previous negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians in 2008 the two sides never reached agreement on any of the four main issue areas: borders, security, Jerusalem, and refugees.