International

Alternative Realities

The Guardian reports today on the meeting between Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and Tony Blair:

Tony Blair refused yesterday to endorse publicly the plan by the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, for a partial withdrawal from the West Bank.

The Times reports on the same meeting that:

EHUD OLMERT, Israel’s new Prime Minister, was in jubilant mood last night after Tony Blair gave him tacit approval to move forward on the next stage of his controversial unilateral withdrawal plan.“I feel very much encouraged. He wants what is good for us and the Palestinians.”

Shurely shome mishtake, as they say over at Private Eye? Well, no. Here is a connoisseur’s example of the media bringing its own agenda to its coverage of an event. The Times is broadly supportive of Israel: the Guardian is not. The Times wants to be upbeat about the possibilities for peace, the Guardian does not. There were even two diammetrically opposed leaders, the Guardian opining over “the poverty of unilateralism”, while The Times argued that “It takes two”, with the pressure on the Palestinians to be peaceful partners.

Either way, as Palestine descends further towards some kind of civil war, the plan by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for a referendum on his two-state plan is to be welcomed. Over three quarters of the Palestinian population support Abbas’ proposal. It is to be welcome not just because a two-state plan, that gives Israel peace and security, and the Palestinians a viable, contiguous, state is the only answer, but also because, for once, the Palestinians are setting the agenda instead of following it.

The whole history of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy is a chronicle of Israel and the US offering something, and the Palestinians refusing, for whatever reasons. Abbas’ referendum plan is a welcome opportunity to change that dynamic, to sieze the diplomatic iniative, and force Israel to react.

PS – One of the comments on my previous postings asked me who I thought would win the World Cup – judging by the barrage of criticism I received, it is clear that whoever triumphs in the final, the real winner is Germany.

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