Sunday, August 06, 2006

"We are tired of fighting"

Ariana Huffington has a very good post on Ehud Olmert, whom she had praised earlier this year for "his ability to change course when staying the course has proven to be the wrong path." Now, she sees a different man (below is quoted material):
When I first met Olmert, he was singing a very different tune. Indeed, I was impressed by his willingness to stand up to the hard-liners in his country who were resisting his plans for withdrawal from Gaza and push for a difficult solution that he believed was the only way for Israel to achieve a lasting peace.

Here's what he said at a dinner I MCed in New York in June 2005: "We are tired of fighting. We are tired of being courageous. We are tired of winning. We are tired of defeating our enemies. We want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors. And I believe that is not impossible."

Olmert, the man who was "tired of fighting... tired of defeating our enemies," now sees the battle with Hezbollah as "a unique opportunity to change the rules in Lebanon." Shades of George Bush invading Iraq to change the rules in the Middle East.

So now that he's talking like Bush, is Olmert also starting to think like him?

Let's hope not. With the fighting in the Middle East threatening to spill over into Syria and Iran (much to the delight of the neocons inside the White House), this is the time for Olmert to do a gut check and a conscience check... and realize that while he may be winning individual battles, he's losing the war to make Israel safer. This is the time for him to course-correct -- avoiding the Bush model of fanatically staying the course while driving the car over the cliff. The last thing we need is an Israeli Thelma to go with our American Louise.

When championing the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Olmert recognized that it was going to be both really painful and really necessary in order to create a lasting peace.

And just because it didn't immediately result in greater security for Israel doesn't mean it was the wrong approach. As Nicholas Kristof pointed out in his column on the lessons Israel could learn from Spain's battles with Basque separatists and Britain's struggles with the IRA, "restraint and conciliation can seem maddeningly ineffective -- but they are still the last, best hope for peace."


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