Wednesday, March 29, 2006

ISRAEL GOES LIBERAL

If he were not lying in a coma, I imagine Ariel Sharon would be quietly smiling. His decision to leave Likud to form the centrist Kadima was considered quite a gamble at the time, but their victory in yesterday's Israeli elections leaves his successor, Ehud Olmert, in a very strong position.
Addressing the Palestinian leadership, Mr Olmert said: "We are prepared to compromise, give up parts of our beloved land of Israel, painfully remove Jews who live there, to allow you the conditions to achieve your hopes and to live in a state in peace and quiet.

"I hope to hear a similar pronouncement from the Palestinian Authority. The time has come for the Palestinians and their leaders to relate to the existence of the state of Israel, to accept only part of their dream, to stop terror, to accept democracy and accept compromise and peace with us."
Hamas welcomed the Kadima victory with all the good grace one might expect:
Sami Abu Zohri, a Hamas spokesman, said: “The initial results show that the Israelis voted for Olmert’s plan, which is a declaration of war on the Palestinians and the liquidation of Palestinian rights. The occupation is pushing the area towards greater escalation.”

Mark Regev, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: “I hope the sort of remarks we heard today help to dissolve any possible illusion that might exist as to the true character of this new Palestinian leadership.”
Quite.

Mahmoud Abbas was a little more reasonable:
There was a warmer welcome from Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian President, whose spokesman urged Mr Olmert to deal with him through the Palestine Liberation Organisation, to which Hamas does not belong. “We hope to see an Israeli government ready to implement the road map and ready to work toward peace,” the spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said. “If the Israeli government is ready, the PLO is ready.”
Nice talk. But forgive me for thinking that these kinds of comments have regularly been spouted by PLO representatives for as long as I've followed the conflict. Whether this time is different remains to be seen.

Labour did better than expected (winning 20 seats) and with Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud taking a pasting (winning only 11 seats), we could be an interesting few months. But isn't that always the way with Israel?

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