Friedman on Olmert

Thomas Friedman's NYT editorial today has a rather unusual portrayal of Ehud Olmert,a figure on the far Israeli right who is a top Sharon advisor and a former mayor of Jerusalem.

Last week, an earthquake happened in Israel when a leading figure of the Israeli right split away and embraced the logic of the Israeli left and center. The Likud deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, gave a gutsy interview to Israel's leading columnist, Nahum Barnea of Yediot, in which he indicated that Israel can't continue occupying the West Bank and Gaza, with all their Palestinians, without losing a Jewish majority and eventually having to argue in the world against the universal principle of one person, one vote. "I shudder to think that liberal Jewish organizations that shouldered the burden of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa will lead the struggle against us," Mr. Olmert said.

But Mr. Olmert is dubious about negotiating with the Palestinians. So, he argued, Israel should consider unilaterally dismantling settlements and withdrawing from most of the territories, including parts of Arab East Jerusalem, to maximize the number of Jews under Israeli control and minimize the number of Arabs.

I'm very dubious about anything Olmert says -- he is responsible after all for a great deal of the "judaification" of Arab East Jerusalem -- but it is worth noting, in light of the previous post on the demographics of historic Palestine, that this seems to be an issue of rising importance for Israelis. Friedman thinks this is because of the Iraq war, but the facts in themselves are probably enough.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region,