Friday, August 1, 2008

Olmert resigns, peace at hand

Bank Closing this September, Put your money here
Frank Kaufmann

I published several articles urging readers to suspend emotional attachment to or even interest in peace language and promises from Olmert, Abbas, and Bush administration representatives. Each for their own (many) reasons represents zero chance to effect peace. The US is at perilous juncture with its status and international influence profoundly threatened by this administration's forfeiture of America's stance and reputation as a champion for human rights that abhors inhumanity, Abbas does not speak for the entire Palestinian Authority, and Olmert never shed the shadow of corruption charges on top of having committed the unforgivable sin of losing Israeli lives due to bad military planning. Counting on this collection of people to broker peace is like counting on the Marx Brothers to sit peacefully through La Traviata. While no one is ill motivated, none are situated or equipped to meet such expectations.

Yesterday Prime Minister Olmert tendered a graceful exeunt and opened the door to the mild madness known as Israeli electoral politics, a high-stakes clash of intensely held views related to survival itself. Olmert's resignation might compare to opening a crack the exit door of a burning theater, hardly a conducive environment for delicate peace conversations, and worse so when half those trampling others towards the door are war hawks.

The peace pursuits of this particular group always teetered on rickety scaffolding even in their best days. That so, imagine the "have I gone mad" disorientation that had to wash over
New York Times readers to find these as the first words of the article on Olmert's resignation announcement:

The official line in Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah is that the decision by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel to resign will not affect American efforts to negotiate a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians before the end of the year

The article then goes on to present assurances from Olmert, Abbas (speaking from Tunisia), and Rice's "senior administration official" (“Fundamentally, as Americans,” the official added, “don't give up.”)

But author Aaron David Miller is quoted later in the article saying,

The bottom line: Can Olmert reach a half-baked agreement minus Jerusalem with Abbas and with Condi looking on proudly in the next several months? Maybe,” said Aaron David Miller, the author of "The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace

But can he sell it, let alone implement it, in an environment in which he has no popular support or moral authority, with Hamas threatening from the sidelines? No way.”

But there is something more urgent and more fundamental than merely the inadequacies of this particular group (in talent, disposition, or mere circumstance) to be effective agents for peace. The most debilitating problem facing our peace hopes is not the characters in the line up at present, but rather the anachronistic spell under which such efforts are conceived and sold. This is what must be changed, not the players on the scene at any given moment.

It is not a particular bias, strategy, political skill and insight (or lack thereof) that suddenly and magically will produce a coming era of stability and security. "If only we had a take-no-prisoners Nethanyahu at the helm, THEN we'd see progress." "Our only hope is an Annapolis-committed Livni, if we are to see the end of tensions and horror." Both views miss the point. Attachment to either dogma does nothing more than extend the spirit of political contention that itself inherently contradicts what is required to dissolve hatred and conflict.

Hope should not rest with whether or not this candidate or that matches my own preferred degree of intolerance and aggression that I like to see in my political figures of choice. Hope must lie first in the prospect that peace actors and commentators awaken from the slumber and pig-headed view that state actors in isolation can succeed as agents for meaningful change.

Political reality and state to state negotiations are wholly inadequate as peace-seeking platforms when taken in isolation. They only can contribute positively when integrated into a creative, carefully designed treillage of related peace-seeking activity. These include religion, social service, empowerment economics, intercultural foundations for education, the arts, sports, and other long term investment, organizations, and activities devoted to peace. The narrow, parochial characteristics of state actors and politicians cannot in isolation bring peace. This expensive activity does not deserve the privileged, excessive attention and resources it enjoys.

The political arena itself is contentious by nature. Political figures themselves are transitional by nature. Harmonization in political terms is characterized by compromise and self-interest. These characteristics are not evils. They have a role to play and cannot and should not be excluded from peace efforts. But the hubris, and the blind adherence old and failed mentalities that imagine political figures in isolation can bring peace, by now should be an embarrassing position to hold.

State level, politically based efforts for peace should not attract much attention until they are integrated creatively, strategically, and effectively into holistic peace-seeking agendas inclusive of central, more long term, and better suited enterprises for peace, such as civil society, the private sector, voluntary associations, and those from the enlightened sector of religion.

Frank Kaufmann is the Director of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace
The opinion here is his own


Anonymous said...

From Willis Witter

"State level, politically based efforts for peace should not attract much attention until they are integrated creatively ..." (last paragraph of the article)
Here's where I'm stumpped, pessimistic and cynical. Frank, it sounds like you're as stumpped as me though (hopefully) nowhere as pessimistic and cynical as I. Both Israelis and Palestinians are traumatized. The trauma of the Palestinians is easy for outsiders to see. It hits one in the face the first time they travel to the West Bank or Gaza. The trauma on the Israeli side is much more difficult to see because Israel is stable, prosperous and embodies Western modernity. Nevertheless, the trauma is there. Moreover it's the type of trauma on both sides that gets passed on from generation to generation. Hopefully, at some point, both Israelis and Palestinians reach a consensus within their respective populations that it is in their own self interest to make a deal. That would provide the incentives needed for political leaders to make a deal.
But when I try to think it through, I find myself looking at a minimum of three generations -- at least 75 years if not longer -- before any sort of peace agreement is even possible.
I hope I'm wrong and welcome any attempt from any side to convince me I'm wrong. But the best I can hope for at this point is that politicians in the next generation don't make things worse.

Gunnard said...

As I read you here, Frank, you seem to say that Olmert leaving is not so bad, and that whoever next follows in his footsteps as the head of Israel is critically sensitive. I would agree with both of those points.

Whoever assumes leadership in Israel now should be someone who can embrace the ethic of building closer, more constructive relationships with Palestinians. He or she should be about working toward finding points of common value with the Palestinian people.

Rising above historical differences is always challenging, always difficult, yet the burden can be lightened by looking at ways to bind our the youth, the new generations of each culture together, to find a sense of brotherhood, a closeness of heart, a realization that, as descendants of the same Abraham, to give honor and peace to this ancestor the children need to make peace, reconciliation, and love their top priority. Nothing else, in the end, matters.

Peace and love centered on the ancestor -- indeed centered on the One whom the ancestor Abraham obeyed, God -- is the way to end the fracture and create a new relationship of mutual prosperity and blessing.

Whoever in Israel who can grasp this as the foremost priority for the Israeli people, and who implements this as the official policy of the state of Israel, will be an historic figure of goodness, one remembered with fondness and appreciation for hundreds of generations to come, if not longer.

Marcus Braybrooke said...

Thank you for this this, which is very much to the point.

I personally would have highlighted the positive message which comes at the end of your article in an opening paragraph before your skeptical comments on the politicians - in case people do not read to the end.

We have a new website

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing my attention to your splendid essay, which in my opinion provides a rational analysis of

the slice of Alice’s Wonderland that carries the greatest immediate danger to any sort of global balance of

power. My additional two cents, to wit:

1. The terminology, ‘Peace’ “negotiations” presumes a degree of equality among the negotiators. Israel has 200 nuclear weapons, U.S. military aid and global support of its disinformation and messaging. Palestinians have rocks and sticks and besides, they are ‘dirty Arab terrorists.’
2. Rice has been on a fools errand. I suspect to the knowledge of some, intentionally so, as a necessary precondition to a Netanyahu govt and Israeli strike against Iran.
3. Let us be vigilant about another Israeli false flag operation
4. Israel is a democracy, yes, but it is a military democracy. Olmert’s failure was not one of personal corruption, which was the external operative cause of his political demise, but due to his leadership failure in military operations that exposed vulnerabilities.
5. Israel leadership is and has been committed to a one-state solution since pre-1947 with David Ben-Gurion and the founding Zionists.
6. Fearful is the time from early Sept. (Israeli elections) to early Nov (US elections)
7. Sad to say, Israel’s militarism -- which is embedded in a centuries-old tribal psyche – enabled by a hopelessly entangled US with its 7-year-old crusade to force upon oil-producing countries its secular religion of democracy -- poses the greatest immediate threat to military balance of power and economic stability in the world

chrislepel said...

I would like to offer a comment on the fundamental Principle of Peace Building based on the deeper reconciliation between the Jewish and Christian Faith that would open the way for the general reconciliation of the three Abrahamic faiths in the Holy Land.

I recently attended an advance Theological 7 days seminar organized by the Messianic Jewish Ministry in Brazil.
The reconciliation between Judaism and Christianity would heal de division and create a Peace Movement including the benefit of practising the Divine Law together with the Love of Jesus.

More information:

Norman said...


I agree with your view that Olmert,Abbas, Condi and other key players in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute offer much hope for peace in the Holy Land. What been missing since 1947 is a synergistic vision of a one-state solution. Check out the vision for a phased new nation-building model we call the Abraham Federation that is based on the post-scarcity ideas of visionaries like Bucky Fuller and Louis Kelso, starting with the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem and then rippling out to Israel and other neighboring states:

There is at least one influential cardinal at the Vatican who supports this concept. It can also be downloaded from,, and Antonio Betancourt is a long-time supporter of the Abraham Federation.

Keep up the work for Peace through Justice,
Norm Kurland

Anonymous said...

Having written in the 70s, a 5-part series on the Palestinians based on many interviews at refugee camps and throughout the West Bank and Jordan, and having done a lot of reporting from Israel as well, I have come to the view that the conflict-resolution efforts by diplomats and the resulting talking points for heads of state are rarely effective although the absence of such would be inexcusable.

Free enterprise may be the surest engine to expedite meaningful and ultimately healthy and productive intercultural exchange. Look, for example, at Taiwan and the PRC. We read constantly about all the huffing and puffing by both sides in the competition for military clout and political backing from the worldwide community. But the real story is the steadily increasing commercial integration with thousands of businessmen working deals and owning assets (and in some cases even maintaining separate families) on both sides of the Straits.

Then consider that Israel is essentially a European-style socialist state overly dependent on American support and aid (as well as that from the worldwide Jewish community). The Palestinians are more dysfunctional but are also overly dependent on U.S., UN and (not nearly enough) Arab/Islamic aid which drives corruption (see: ) but does little for the cause of peace and reconciliation or even the establishment of a successful nation state.

Free enterprise makes possible and spurs the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of ordinary people seeking a happy livelihood for their families. And yes that includes the freedom to worship as they please. Ordinary people work for a living and, whether in the U.S. or in the Mideast, are finding government officials of any sort (and the media that cover them) of diminishing relevance to their daily lives.

Al said...


Free enterprise is important, but freedom of enterprise follows freedom of thought and practice. That is what spurs freedom in the other areas.

Without countries opening up more to encourage freedom of thought and practice within their own spheres, especially religious practice, there is little hope for lasting peace. I'm afraid too many countries practice the opposite. They put heavy restrictions on religious belief and practice, which is antithetical to human progress.

Politics is, as we know, only the basic application of our religious and social ideals. Heavy restrictions on what people can say, where they can gather, what they can wear or even which religions one can safely practice in a country doom other efforts to failure. That is peace a la North Korea. What is needed is more freedom of thought and expression and freedom of religious practice in all countries and regions.

When that is paramount, when nations compete to see which one has the most freedom of religion and practice, we will see real change. Until then, "le deluge" (chaos) - Al

Jack Whedbee said...

I propose for independent businesses to sponsor several series of exchange tours of mixed groups between students, farmers, policemen, school-teachers, county level politicians, some journalists, artists, laborers, maybe a few religious lay leaders, ...common folks between the involved nations. Each tour could have between 50-100 participants divided into groups of 7-8 with representatives from each of the varied groups mentioned. Each tour would last 10-12 days, would involve some sightseeing, home-visits, picnics, soccer games, only a few very short lectures & more guided discussions, school visits, concerts, art exhibits...choreographed to have stimulus on the conscience through human heartistic experience.
The stuffy religious leaders could still have their conferences in stuffy hotels, but I think the real peace will happen faster at the grass roots level. Naturally, a few entrepreneurs, some counselors, conflict resolution specialists, film directors, awareness group facilitators should be included in each team to guide the lving process. But I think that the angels and the Holy Spirit would like for the peace-making process to be more widely available to people who are simply parents or future parents.

Am currently reading:
What Are You Optimistic About?: Today's Leading thinkers On Why Things Are Good And Getting Better, edited by John Brockman
cool book.
Sincerely Jack Whedbee

David Burgess said...

You are right, Frank, that the political process receives too much undue attention. That's true virtually everywhere. It is easier for journalists to report the activities of state actors. It also allows them to play the who's up, who's down game. However, in this case, there is very little else to positive for journalists to address. There are many interesting people to people initiatives, but as yet they have no impact on any real decision-making. As one of my Jewish friends has pointed out to me on several occasions, everyone knows what the compromise will look like, but neither side has the political will to make the necessary concessions to achieve it. What it will take to get there is anyone's guess.

PeterD said...

The one-state solution suggested in one of the posts has merit. Actually, a total re-examination of the basis of statehood, and its purpose, ought to be undertaken. Should the right of states to exclude immigrants be a legitimate function of statehood? Perhaps not. The function of a state should be to provide services within its borders, and to facilitate a permanent political process among its residents. If the world moved in this direction, much of the conflict between Israel and neighboring states could be resolved. Freedom of movement and choice of place of habitation is, and should be declared universally, a human right.

Imam Tariq Ansaar Aquil said...

I always enjoy your articles - this one is right on the mark. But I believe that the special work that we were privileged to participate in did plant a "Seed" of peace in that part of the world. A Seed that under God's Providence will sprout and eventually grow in the hearts and minds; perhaps not of the present leaders but in the people in that region. My prayer is that it takes hold sooner rather than later.

Alon Ben-Meir said...

I read carefully your article and can certainly appreciate your skepticism about the Israeli, Palestinian and American leaders. I have never believed that the Annapolis conference will produce peace at the end of this year not because of bad faith on the part of any of the main players but simply because there is not enough time to hammer out an agreement of such complexity especially when trust is virtually non existent. That being said, I have always supported any peace effort regardless of by whom and under what circumstances these efforts are undertaken. Considering the intractability of the conflict and the continuing toll it exacts any understanding achieved between Israel and its adversaries is better than achieving nothing. Mr. Olmert can deliver nothing to the Palestinians without the advice and consent of his government and the Parliament but if he can advance the peace process however marginally his successor can still build on it. After Sixty years of bloody conflict and considering the volatile condition in the Middle East with Iran racing toward acquiring nuclear weapons I do not think Israel has the luxury of waiting for the perfect leader to make peace under perfect conditions. Peace with Syria would change in a very dramatic way the region’s landscape in Israel’s favor. I happened to know up close what is going on and I absolutely believe it is the right thing to do regardless of Olmert’s personal problems and shortcomings.

Keep up the good work;


Rabbi Ted Falcon, Ph.D. said...

I do not disagree with you in principle or in fact. I disagree with you in strategy.

How do we make it worth the politician's energy to work in behalf of peace when any peace settlement means compromises which will be difficult for both sides? (And there is no way to peace in the Middle East without compromises which will be difficult for both sides.) How do we convince those one each side who are absolutely convinced (the really believe!) that they are entitled to the territory claimed by the other?

It is interesting that the nearer an Israeli leader gets to peace the greater his failings are paraded before the world. If Olmert had not made some of the peace statements he did, I do not believe he would be forced to leave office now. Writers in the peace groups in Israel are saying much the same thing. Which is not to glorify Olmert, but simply to appreciate the incredible power held by those who are threatened by the costs of peace more than they are by the costs of war.

States make war and States make peace. The groups you speak of must be part of the peace, but they cannot independently negotiate on behalf of their governments.

Sometimes I wish I could see the peace that needs to be.

Blessings, Brother Frank,


Samvel Jeshmaridian said...

Dear Frank,

As to my understanding, Olmert's resignation has been expected: Just for the sake and/or benefit of one's own nation and statehood. As a politician, Olmert has done the only right thing to be done in such situations. Never has an Israeli high-rank official made his/her own country suffer because of his/her inability, ignorance, and/or other private/personal lack.

The fact is that if in the 1960s, the official Tel-Aviv would never allow Palestine to have its own statehood, having in mind that independent Palestine can be a danger for Israel's statehood/government; whereas in the beginning of the 21st century, the understanding has become diametrically reverse, i.e., to feel safe, Israelites understood that they are to have another state/government as a neighbor.

Historical pieces and events will repeat periodically. Problem-solving will come with simple understanding: Governments and states are just tools/instruments in the hands of the people to live a better and more meaningful life. And great individuals can humbly make their lives instruments for this purpose, whether their names are Olmert, Abbas, Rise (Rise can never be the bridge in this highly difficult problem.), before the time comes, when citizens forget that the tools in their hands may serve as weapons.
With regards,
Samvel Jeshmaridian

Michael Vlasic said...

Would like to comment on your article about the recent change of position in Israeli leadership.
Basically, same story different day.
No matter who gets in power in the PLO or Israel, it has to be an individual who is committed to what I would offer as "Trials and Tests for Peaceful Coexistence".
When I was in Jerusalem in May of this year on the 35th MEPI conference, we attended a forum with Islamic leaders in Ramallah.
There were Palestinian and Israeli views presented. Both had value.
The Tests and Trials I am alluding to is that there must be a leader with enough personal courage to risk his ego and reputation at the expense of a workable peace.
I mean, offer a plan or trial program. Like:
Israel will open its borders on the West Bank for a fixed period and restore more freedom to Palestinians if during that period there is no, zero, violent response to Israeli people and property.
Any breach of the mutually agreed upon trial on either side and the trial is cancelled.
If the Palestinians fulfill the selected time period trial, and fulfill it, then more freedom can be extended to them in the West Bank Territories; i.e. Palestinians can use the Israeli built roads, water rights can be extended and made flexible or entrance into Jerusalem will be easier.
If there is peaceful coexistence going into the future, then foundations of respect can be built that will be a base for continual and on-going dialogue.
Religious ego and religious fundamental thinking and posturing must cease in these trials.
I would love to act as a MEPI representative to broker such proposals with both governments.
(As a side note, my twin brother was involved in brokering the Bosnia peace agreement in the Dayton Accords during that conflict.)
However, the basic and absolute requirement on both Israeli and Palestinian leadership coming to the table of such noegotiating trial proposals would be that religious posturing and religious superiority must be left at the door.
Both sides must absolutely and categorically accept that all involved are children of the one Father of Faith, Abraham and that no violence of any kind will be tolerated.
Such trial and testing can lay the groundwork for actual peaceful coexistence.
But a leader must step forward with an agressive action plan.
Nothing ventured nothing gained.
Praying for peace in the Middle East, your brother in service to God's hope,

Michael Vlasic
ACLC Coordinator
Dayton, OH

Frank Bell said...

You seem to be calling a spade a spade. However despite the deficiencies of the political participants, they can provide a legal support, significant influence on others, and various economic incentives that your approach would be about impossible to match. Now if there could be better cooperation between the two approaches, it would be synergistic. If effective innovative technologies could be applied, that would be even more synergistic.

Curtis Walker said...

Thanks for the chance to read and reflect on this article.
Without a doubt, Heaven needs these types of trenchant analyses that will guide readers into understanding (1)why the need exists for a new ideological framework and (2)where they must look to find that framework.
Your essay provocatively deals with Ehud Olmert's resignation and its implications--both immediate and long-term. And you accurately point out how the leadership triumvirate of George W. Bush, Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert could not be expected to effectively broker the longed-for peace that the Middle East craves. Your commentary serves the purpose of showing why people around the world are justified in their refusal to continue placing faith in their elected leaders--leaders who consistently demonstrate their inability to solve problem after problem.
The world needs to understand why these politicians have been, and will continue to be, unable to successfully act as peace agents.
The fact is that these officials lack the authority to address such seemingly intractable problems, such as the dilemma of dissolving hatred and conflict. They lack that authority because there is currently, for them, no paradigm by which such authority can be wielded. Likewise, there is, for them, no shared values-scheme in which to root that required paradigm. Thus the so-called leadership displayed by these officials leaves the people of the world tragically bereft of a shared sense of citizenship and keenly aware that there is no strategic plan for execution.
Consider this quote from the Sunday, January 20, 2008 edition of the Houston Chronicle: "Asked about a timetable for peace during his recent stop in Ramallah on the West Bank, Bush responded, 'I'm not a timetable person,' then added, 'actually I am on a timetable--got 12 months.'"
So the world sees how in January 2008, Bush initiates, for the first time in 7 years, serious Mideast peace talks. Five months later, on Thursday, May 15, 2008, Bush stands before the Knesset--his peace efforts now indisputably out of steam--and he sheepishly looks ahead to his own presidential legacy while dumping on the shoulders of Ehud Olmert the responsibility to deliver the call for peace. And the only response the weakened and unpopular Olmert could offer was that of unconvincingly sounding the call.
I find it interesting as well to consider that on Wednesday, June 11, 2008, when Israeli leaders agreed to not launch a major attack on Gaza-Strip militants, the people of the world could see that this was little more than a self-interested, stop-gap tactic.
All of these developments serve as proof that ours is a de-centered world desperately crying out for order and meaning. Characterized by isolationism, and hampered by the self-serving actions of numerous autocrats, the world's nations have no hope for genuine peace, without implementing the enlightened attitudes and positions your commentary calls for, Frank.
Keep up the great work, and continued success to you.

Yours for the cause of securing the cherished Utopia,

Rev. Curtis W. Walker