Monday, November 30, 2009

No Bull

When "the most influential foreign affairs analyst in Australian journalism" (aka Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan) met "a giant of contemporary Middle East politics" (aka Ehud Olmert) over lunch at Sydney's Circular Quay last week, he must have had quite an attack of the vapours, given the pheromones charging full tilt from the "balding lawyer with a modest paunch... dressed in jeans and black T-shirt with a Red Bull logo." (Olmert still dreams of peace, The Australian, 28/11/09)

Mind you, Mr Influential has always had a thing for giants, having previously described Suharto as an "authentic giant" and John Howard as a "giant in Australian foreign and security policy." (See my 29/1/08 post Greg Sheridan: In Praise of 'Great' Men)

"Olmert's term in office," Sheridan cooed, "is best remembered for the extensive negotiations, and final peace offer that he undertook with [that pygmy] Abbas."

Of these the Israeli giant said: "On the 16th of September, 2008, I presented him (Abbas) with a comprehensive plan... based on the following principles. One, there would be a territorial solution on the basis of the 1967 borders with minor modifications on both sides." This, reports Sheridan, "would have allowed Israel to keep the biggest Jewish settlement blocks [sic] which are mainly now suburbs of Jerusalem, but would certainly have entailed other settlers having to leave Palestinian territory and relocate to Israel. In total, Olmert says, this would have involved Israel claiming about 6.4% of Palestinian territory in the West Bank."

OK then, let's get this straight: the mob that, contrary to international law, stormed into the West Bank in 1967 and has refused ever since to leave, in defiance of UN resolution 242, is now offering the West Bankers the deal of a lifetime. Hmm! That aside, the giant reckons his mob is/was now prepared to give it all back except for just 6.4% of the West Bank, consisting of settlement blocs "now suburbs of Jerusalem." Incredible! But... um... don't those settlement blocs - sorry - "suburbs" extend east almost to Jericho in the Jordan Valley, effectively cutting the West Bank (and the proposed Palestinian state) in two? And the West Bank? Does that come with or without the Jordan Valley? Or with or without the bits now west of the West Bank wall? Greg? Can you get back to us on this?

"No. 2 was the issue of Jerusalem... Jewish neighbourhoods would be under Jewish sovereignty. Arab neighbourhoods would be under Palestinian sovereignty, so it could be the capital of a Palestinian state." Righto! So those Jewish settlements - sorry, "neighbourhoods" - ringing Palestinian East Jerusalem (Gilo, Har Homa, East Talpiot, Ramat Eshkol etc), wouldn't they sever said "Arab neighbourhoods" (the putative Palestinian "capital") from the West Bank? Greg? Can you get back to us on this?

"Third was the issue of Palestinian refugees... I told [Abbas] I would never agree to a right of return. Instead, we would agree on a humanitarian basis to accept a certain number every year for 5 years, on the basis that this would be the end of conflict and the end of claims. I said to him 1,000 per year." Run that past me again. Of the 5 million Palestinian refugees currently in exile beyond Israel's borders (wherever they may be at the moment), 5,000 get to return to their homes and lands. Greg? Are you there, Greg? But there's more to this giant than fabulous offers: "I was the first Israeli prime minister to speak of Palestinian suffering and to say that we are not indifferent to that suffering," he said solemnly.

Those pheromones were too much. Sheridan was clearly smitten: "Olmert is right to paint this offer as embodying the most extensive concessions, and the best deal, ever offered to the Palestinians by an Israeli leader."

And that Palestinian pygmy, Abbas? The Israeli giant, with pained look and shrug, could only lament, "He promised me the next day his adviser would come. But the next day Saeb Erekat rang my adviser and said we forgot we are going to Amman today, let's make it next week. I never saw him again."

Pearls before swine, obviously.

PS: While on the subject of Israeli pearls and Palestinian swine, you might like to check out my 13/11/09 post Mendes & Dyrenfurth's Win-Win Plan.

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