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"Before We End Up Like South Africa"?

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As Israel and the Palestinians prepare for their upcoming "meeting" in Annapolis, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been busy spinning Israel's positions on the far reaching concessions it will likely be asked to make as part of the "final peace deal" that Olmert and Abbas are pledging to negotiate within the next year.

Here's how the Guardian reported the most recent developments:

"Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, warned this week that it was unlikely that there could be a better Palestinian leadership -- from Israel's standpoint -- in the foreseeable future. Israel needed to take advantage of the opportunity to create a Palestinian state in order to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel and "avoid ending up like South Africa," he told the Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee."

Please read the paragraph again -- especially if you ever said a bad word, or wrote a nasty email or letter, about Jimmy Carter's Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid. Because Olmert just let the cat out of the bag. Regardless of how you parse the statement, Olmert clearly admits that Israel's situation is analogous to South Africa's.

On the one hand, the statement could well be a Freudian slip; that is, Olmert was admitting that Israel's rule of the territories, geographically/spatially, politically, economically and militarily, already closely resembles apartheid-era rule in South Africa. This is the position of most South Africans who have visited the OT, including Neslon Mandela and Desmond Tutu. It's also the position of many, if not most Israeli scholars who study the occupation.

On the other hand, he could be saying that if things don't change soon, Israel will wind up like South Africa. There are two ways to interpret this interpretation: First, that Olmert is arguing that things aren't as bad as apartheid yet, but will "end up" like it if a peace agreement isn't reached soon. Second, and perhaps more troubling for Zionist Jews, Israelis and their supporters, would be that Olmert is saying that if the occupation isn't ended soon, Israel will wind up like post-apartheid South Africa -- that is, sooner or later Palestinians will achieve the numerical majority and world opinion will force Israel and the Occupied Territories to become one state, for of all its citizens, ending the Zionist dream in exactly the manner that Yassir Arafat and Hamas have long desired.

No matter how you interpret it, however, Olmert's admission reveals just how bad the occupation is, and how close it is to mortally wounding Israel's identity as a Jewish, Zionist state.

Let's hope for a Hannukhah/Christmas miracle in Annapolis.