The lack of progress toward a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is an exception to the old saying that success has many fathers but failure is an orphan. The inability to resolve a struggle dating back to 1948 has many fathers and many causes, from the refusal of Israel's Arab neighbors to accept the existence of a Jewish state to Palestinian terrorism to the embrace of the Arab cause by the former Soviet Union as a counterweight to the U.S.-Israeli alliance.
Another obstacle is the proliferation of Jewish settlements on the West Bank of the Jordan River since Israel occupied it in 1967 in one of a series of Arab-Israeli wars. Now, as he prepares to leave office under a legal cloud, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has reiterated his view that a stable peace requires the dismantlement of most settlements. "The decision we are going to have to make is a decision we have been refusing for 40 years to look at open-eyed," he told an Israeli newspaper. "The time has come to say these things. The time has come to put them on the table."
Alas, Olmert's words can't atone for his inaction as prime minister to curb settlements in anticipation of the two-state solution he has endorsed. That goal, until recently not a priority of the Bush administration, has been pursued fruitlessly in recent years by the "quartet" of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. Meanwhile, Jewish settlements have continued to grow. By one count, 290,000 Israelis live in the West Bank today, an increase of 30,000 since Olmert succeeded the ailing Ariel Sharon as prime minister in January 2006. That figure doesn't include settlements in East Jerusalem, also captured in 1967 and the hoped-for capital of a Palestinian state.