The Daily Star (Editorial)
October 9, 2007 - 2:42pm

Israel's deputy prime minister, Haim Ramon, has stirred up a hornets' nest in the Jewish state by proposing that Occupied Jerusalem be shared with the Palestinians as part of any comprehensive peace agreement. His boss, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, has studiously avoided public comment on the matter - which indicates very strongly that Ramon's statements have been trial balloons aimed at gauging the reactions of the Israeli public and the international community. It remains to be seen, therefore, whether or not the plan has a chance in the near future.

The fact that Ramon's proposal has sparked such vociferous criticism at home is a measure of just how far out of touch some Israeli politicians are. After all, the idea is not novel: It has been around in some form for decades, and a detailed version of it was a key element of the deal then-US President Bill Clinton tried but failed to broker near the end of his term in office. Nor is it out of date: Just a few days ago, an open letter signed by several former US State Department officials put their imprimatur on a plan for Jerusalem to be shared. In addition, logic makes the proposal politically viable, geography it physically practicable and United Nations Security Council resolutions make it legally mandatory.

The only thing missing is a mediator able and willing to push this and other workable suggestions for the so-called "final-status" issues that have prevented a peace from being signed. Like it or not, at this point the only power that can play that role is the United States - and President George W. Bush has thus far demonstrated little in the way of the dedication required to revive the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and even less of the evenhandedness necessary to complete it.

It is still possible for Bush to succeed at something in the Middle East before his tenure ends, but time is running short and getting the Israelis to "yes" will require a substantial reorientation of the policy directions his administration has followed. He has reversed himself when confronted with reality on other issues, such as when reneged on Clinton's nuclear deal with North Korea and then reinstated it several years later after that country had dramatically expanded its bomb-making potential. In that instance, however, he did not have to overcome the fervent objections from Israeli extremists and their confederates on Capitol Hill.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017