It's astonishing - and, IMO, inspiring - that a former Israeli prime minister has the conviction - and the courage to express it - that the Likud's (and Netanyahu's) proclamation that Jerusalem must be undivided as Israel's "eternal capital" must be abandoned. Here's more from the report:
Olmert said the notion of a united Holy City is unrealistic. He pointed to a number of Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, saying they have not been integrated into the rest of the city.
"We can't unite them and connect them to the real fabric of life in Jerusalem, and except for grief, we haven't gotten anything from them," he said.
Olmert went through a dramatic political transformation late in his career.
As mayor from 1993 to 2003, he was an outspoken hard-liner opposed to concessions to the Palestinians. Then, while prime minister from 2006 to 2009, he pursued a peace agreement envisioning broad territorial concessions to the Palestinians before a corruption case forced him to step down.
In those talks, Olmert offered to turn over parts of east Jerusalem to the Palestinians, and have Jerusalem's Old City, home to the most sensitive religious sites, be administered by an international consortium including Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, Jordanians and Saudis.
Olmert claimed his talks with the Palestinians came tantalizingly close to an agreement. The Palestinians have said Olmert did not go far enough.
Since taking power three years ago, Netanyahu has repudiated Olmert's willingness to partition the city. With a newly expanded coalition, Netanyahu has cemented a formidable majority for his hardline policies.
"We have a great obligation to the unity and development of Jerusalem," Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, as he marked what Israel calls "Jerusalem Day."
The Palestinians have refused to conduct peace talks with Netanyahu unless he halts settlement construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. About 200,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem, approaching the Arab population of about 280,000. Netanyahu says talks should resume without any preconditions.
On Sunday, Israel marked the anniversary with a series of marches and speeches throughout the city. The Palestinians' chief peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said the Israeli celebrations were "clear proof" that Israel is not interested in peace. "Clearly, this behavior reflects the mentality of a colonizer, rather than a supposed peace partner."
The status of Jerusalem is among the most explosive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, defying resolution throughout two decades of on-again, off-again peace talks. Today, the Arab and Jewish sections of the city are worlds apart.
Job discrimination against Arab Jerusalemites is common and investments in infrastructure and education in east Jerusalem are far below the levels plowed into the western sector. The discrimination has stifled economic development, fueled chronic joblessness and stoked poverty.
"We often use slogans in regard to Jerusalem and refrain from looking at the reality of Jerusalem. The result is that the discrepancy is something that many people have trouble adjusting to and accepting," Olmert told Israel TV.
A report on east Jerusalem by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel backed up Olmert's arguments.
Israeli government policies have fueled a 78 percent poverty rate among Palestinians in east Jerusalem, the group said, citing statistics from Israel's National Insurance Institute. In 2006, the poverty rate was 64 percent.
All the more astonishing, in that light, will be the sight of an American Congress (with its Christian Zionist and CUFI backers) continuing to flock like so many lemmings behind AIPAC's lead, which will undoubtedly hew to Bibi's line:
Celebrating Israel's control of Jerusalem, Netanyahu declared his government was committed to keeping the entire city Israel's undivided capital. . . . "We have a great obligation to the unity and development of Jerusalem," Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, as he marked what Israel calls "Jerusalem Day."
If idiots like GOP House member (Illinois) Joe Walsh have his way though, Congress will take an even harsher tack: encourage Israel to ditch the two-state solution, annex the West Bank, and encourage West Bank Palestinians (including East Jerusalem's Arabs) to move to the "real" Palestinian state: Jordan. One of the Jerusalem Post's resident Arabophobes, Caroline Glick, has chimed in there with her support of Walsh and, in the same peace, tried to trash more progressive Jewish observers (including some prominent J Streeters as well as the JTA's Ron Kampeas.
The short-sightedness of the let-them-move-to-Jordan approach is breathtaking. Several obervers (including Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy) have pointed out the continued failings of the Hashemite monarchy (most disappointingly, under the so-called reformist king Abdullah II) to move toward a more openly democratic system, even as tensions between Jordan's "East Bankers" (the bedouin-derived long-time supporters of the Hashemites) and "West Banker" Palestinians have become exacerbated. In this "Arab Spring/Awakening" era, it's easy to foresee that an influx from the West Bank would tip the balance, bring down the Hashemites, and open the door to empowering political movements, like Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood, that would take a much more anti-Israel line in a country that, with Egypt, is one of the two Arab states that actually have concluded peace treaties with Israel.
If Glick and Walsh (and, for that matter, the US Congress) are truly concerned for Israel to survive without the use of even more apartheid-like methods or even naked (even nuclear) military force, they ought to chill out and rethink.
And they ought to pay serious attention to Ehud Olmert.