Friday, December 12, 2003

A chance for peace

Taking my umpteenth study break this evening, I came across a snippet of news (scroll down to "Olmert's Choice") that gave me more hope for the future of Israel than anything I've seen in the last three years.

The article, from the editors of the center-left Jewish weekly The Forward, mentioned "the decision by Ehud Olmert, Israel's deputy prime minister, to speak out last week in favor of a unilateral withdrawal from most of the territories. "

When I saw that, my jaw dropped six inches.

Let me explain why I was so stunned. My family and I had the privilege of meeting Olmert, then the mayor of Jerusalem, when we visited Israel in the summer of 2000, in recognition of a vast favor a distant cousin of mine had done for Olmert's grandparents.* At the time, Ehud Barak was prime minister of Israel; he was at Camp David, with President Clinton and Yasser Arafat, trying one last time to create a viable peace agreement. Barak had invited Olmert along, and Olmert had refused to go. Reading between the lines Olmert spoke to us, we could easily tell that the reason Olmert wanted to stay behind was so he could badmouth the peace process on behalf of the Likud party. (Barak is Labor.) Olmert spoke admiringly of the settlements, and even told us that he'd had a street named after our cousin... in a settlement. We (at least those of my family who are center-left on Israel, which is by no means all of us) concealed our horror until we left the government offices.

If Ehud Olmert himself thinks Israel should withdraw from the territories, the tide may have turned. G-d grant that it may be so.

*My distant cousin, Eliyahu Lankin, was one of the leaders of the Zionist terrorist movement the Irgun; he was best known as the commander of the Altalena, a ship carrying weapons to Israel during the War of Independence. The ship was destroyed on its entrance to Israel by the less radical Zionist militia the Haganah. He also, apparently, rescued Olmert's grandmother from Russia by masquerading as her husband; her real husband was an Irgun operative in then-Palestine.

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