Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Knee of the Emperor Bends

There is some very unusual rhetoric out there the last few days. Mihail Saakaasvili and Ehud Ohlmert have both done an about fact in their willingness to compromise on key issues. And their aggressive tones have become the cooing voice of reason itself. Two huge forces have tipped the balance of world power; Russian resurgence and USA economic meltdown. Either one could persuade the West to be more humble - together they may have been quite convincing.

Olmert: Israel must give up almost all West Bank

Interim PM says Israel must give up virtually all occupied West Bank including east Jerusalem as key to achieving peace with Palestinians.

JERUSALEM - Israel's interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel must give up virtually all the occupied West Bank including east Jerusalem, insisting in an interview published on Monday this was key to achieving peace with the Palestinians.

"We have to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, the meaning of which is that in practice we will withdraw from almost all the territories, if not all the territories," said Olmert, who heads an interim government following his September 21 resignation.

"We will leave a percentage of these territories in our hands, but will have to give the Palestinians a similar percentage, because without that there will be no peace," he told the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

"Including in Jerusalem," he said in reference to the predominantly Arab eastern part of the Holy City which Israel occupied and annexed after the 1967 war and which Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

His comments are expected to stir deep controversy. Israel officially considers Jerusalem its "eternal, undivided" capital, a view Olmert -- a former mayor of the city -- said he shared for many years.

"I am not trying to justify retroactively what I did for 35 years. For a large portion of these years, I was unwilling to look at reality in all its depth," said Olmert, who turns 63 on Tuesday.

But he stressed that giving up parts of the city is key to Israel's security, pointing to deadly July attacks by Palestinians from east Jerusalem who ploughed through crowded streets with bulldozers.

"Whoever wants to hold on to all of the city's territory will have to bring 270,000 Arabs inside the fences of sovereign Israel. It won't work," Olmert said.

"A decision has to be made. This decision is difficult, terrible, a decision that contradicts our natural instincts, our innermost desires, our collective memories, the prayers of the Jewish people for 2,000 years.

"I think that we are very close to reaching agreements," he said, even though the peace process with the Palestinians has made little visible progress since it was relaunched at a US-hosted conference in November.

He said that also applied to indirect negotiations with longtime foe Syria which were relaunched in May after a eight-year hiatus, with Turkey acting as a go-between.

He made it clear peace would come at a price for both sides, with Israel having to give up the annexed Golan Heights and demanding Syria end its current ties with Iran and stop backing "the Hamas terrorism, the Al-Qaeda terrorism and the jihad in Iraq."

"In both cases, the decision we have to make is a decision that we have been refusing for 40 years to consider with our eyes open," he said, warning, however that there were no risk-free solutions.

He did not rule out military confrontation in Syria in the coming years or renewed bloodshed in the West Bank.

"We don't know, for example, what will happen in the Palestinian Authority after January 9, 2009," he said.

On the one hand, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, whose term ends that day, could remain in power "with some manipulation," he said.

"But we believe that there is a very great danger that there will be a bloody clash, which will thwart any possibility of continuing negotiations and perhaps will force us to be involved in the confrontation, with bloodshed, with everything that could happen as a result."

Olmert formally presented his resignation on September 21 amid deep political turmoil over a series graft allegations that caused police to recommend criminal indictments.

He will remain interim prime minister until a new government is formed. The governing Kadima party's newly elected leader, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is scrambling to put together a government coalition in order to avert snap elections that could put the right-wing Likud party in power.

Read article

Has Ohlmert finally admitted the obvious that Israel can never win the battle they are fighting? Perhaps, since his resignation he is free to speak his mind without political percussions? The reports coming out of Israel vacillate wildly; one week Israel is ready to nuke Iran, the next week it elects a moderate leader. Difficult to find the right clues.

Here is the second article on Saakashvili

West looks to future with Russia relations

By Bridget Kendall
BBC diplomatic correspondent, Sochi
Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili addressing the UN General Assembly on 23 September 2008.

Georgia's leader said there was no alternative to dialogue with Russia
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has said that he does not want his country to drive a wedge between Russia and the rest of the world.

Speaking to the BBC in New York, he said the consequences of the conflict with Russia this summer which led to Georgia's loss of control over the enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia had been "dire", but that Georgia's focus now was to rebuild its economy and strengthen its democracy, rather than seek further confrontation.

This is an interesting change of tone by the Georgian leader - a tacit admission that Georgia has been the short-term military loser in this conflict, but that it hopes to turn the situation into a long-term gain, by seeking to enhance its international reputation compared to Russia.

President Saakashvili admitted that, in the short term, Russia had made territorial gains and the cost to Georgia of this summer's conflict had been dire.

But the consequences he said had not been deadly and Georgia would recover.

"Remember Russia did not get two of its goals," he said, "to destroy our government or to shut off the pipeline which is the main energy bloodline for Europe."

In a markedly more conciliatory tone than previously, he said Georgia's priority now was to rebuild its economy and strengthen its democracy.

He put the emphasis on improving integration with the EU, rather than pushing for the Nato membership which Russia has objected to so strongly.

He said this remained a long-term goal.

Read Article

The rest of the speech is quite defensive; but a change of heart surely. Where is the self-righteous Georgian madman of two weeks ago? Did Saakashvili start taking medication or has he been put in the corner by his master for soiling his bed? Perhaps he realizes his fairy godmother is in economic meltdown? It is so difficult to think like madmen. And impossible to predict the nasty connivances they create to further their aims. I shall have to keep a close eye on these two..

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