Five Best Thursday Columns

Israeli-Palestinian peace, Ron Paul's success, and a new Green Tea Party

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Ehud Olmert on the opportunity for peace  An "unnecessary diplomatic clash between Israel and the Palestinians" is making former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert "uneasy," Olmert himself writes in The New York Times. Olmert wants a two-state solution in the Middle East, but he fears this week's conflict will crush the opportunity for one. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has the right to seek statehood unilaterally with the U.N. general assembly. "But this is not the wisest step Mr. Abbas can take." Nor is Benjamin Netanyahu's effort to rally Israel and its allies to oppose Abbas's bid "the wisest step Mr. Netanyahu can take." Olmert recalls the peace deal he offered Abbas in 2008. It established a Palestinian state "on territory equivalent in size to the pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza Strip," split Jerusalem into Israeli and Palestinian neighborhoods with shared power of the holy sites. Now, the Arab Spring and suffering relations with allies like Turkey mean Israel no longer has time to postpone finding a solution. A delay will only strengthen extremists. "In Israel, we are sorry for the loss of life of Turkish citizens in May 2010, when Israel confronted a provocative flotilla of ships bound for Gaza," he writes, saying a "proper way" for Israel to express this sentiment "will be found." "Israel will not always find itself sitting across the table from Palestinian leaders like Mr. Abbas and the prime minister, Salam Fayyad, who object to terrorism and want peace." They should take the opportunity now, before it is too late, he says.

Terry Anderson on a Green Tea Party  Neither political party has shown environmental leadership, writes Hoover fellow Terry Anderson in The Wall Street Journal. "Democrats keep throwing money and regulations at environmental problems, and Republicans keep arguing that a focus on jobs and the economy must trump environmental protection," he says. "It is time for a movement that brings environmental quality through economic prosperity. It's time for a Green Tea Party." Neither budget increases nor regulations will effectively change the environment, he argues. "Only prosperity and incentives can drive environmental improvements." Data shows that economic growth goes hand in hand with environmental improvements. A Green Tea Party would incentivize economic action not regulate it, he says. Rather than fund green energy producers, as the Obama administration foolishly did with Solyndra, he says, the government should encourage free market policies. A Green Tea Party would advocate requiring "land management agencies such as the Forest Service, Park Service and Bureau of Land Management turn a profit on the federal estate." For years, the government has made water cheap for consumers. "Water markets would make consumers face the full cost, including the environmental cost, thus reducing the demand for water and providing more revenue for deteriorating infrastructure, such as water treatment plants." Such ideas would unite deregulation and environmental protection under one party's banner, he says. "The GTP would serve environmental quality, budget cuts and economic prosperity."

Nicholas Kristof on his interview with Iran's Ahmadinejad  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran began his interview with Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times politely, with a blessing for readers. "Mr. Ahmadinejad is a complex, even bizarre, figure," Kristof writes after the interview, Ahmadinejad's only one while visiting for the U.N. General Assembly. "Even when I pushed him hard on human rights abuses and nuclear deceptions, he responded in even tones while claiming that Iran is manifestly more democratic than the United States." Ahmadinejad repeated his offer to stop enriching uranium if the West provided fuel enriched to 20 percent. It is a deal Ahmadinejad was offered and liked two years ago, but which, Western leaders assume, the Ayatollah rejected. Kristof brought this up, but Ahmadinejad deflected, leaving Kristof wondering whether this was a real offer. Ahmadinejad also called for Syria to stop cracking down on protestors. Kristof points out that Iran has similarly cracked down, and asks Ahmadinjad what's different. Ahmadenijad claimed protestors were not targeted in Iran. When asked about the famous photo of a young woman dying after being shot in the chest, Ahmadinejad "constructed his own reality: He suggested that she had been murdered by his opponents, working with the BBC, as part of a bizarre snuff film." Ahmadenijad then argued that Iran faces problems because of U.S. sanctions but that Iran's economy is doing better than America's. "Then the interview was over, and Mr. Ahmadinejad zoomed back from bombast to conciliation. He beamed and told me: 'We truly like and love the people of the United States.'"

Wen Stephenson on Walden, politics, and climate change  This Saturday, Wen Stephenson will walk to Walden Pond before heading to Boston to attend the Moving Planet rally which calls for world leaders to "get serious about moving beyond fossil fuels," he writes in The Boston Globe. "Ah, Walden, you’re thinking, of course. Environmentalism. Thoreau. Walden Woods. Don Henley. Right on." Actually, he says, that's only partly true. "I'll be walking to Walden because, like the writings that made it famous, this is about far more than environmentalism. It's about humanity." Thoreau was not only a spiritual thinker, he was a political one. He wasn't a recluse, as some believe, but actively engaged socially and politically. "For Thoreau, to be morally awake and in harmony with nature meant to act on behalf of human freedom." As Thoreau finished writing Walden, Anthony Burns, a fugitive slave then living in Boston, was jailed and returned to slavery in the south. "I walk toward one of our ponds but what signifies the beauty of nature when men are base?" Thoreau said shortly afterward. And yet, "Thoreau's immersion in nature, and his spiritual awakening there, led him back to society and its reform." If the biggest threat facing human freedom was slavery then, today it is climate change, Stephenson says. "That may sound hopeless, especially now. But then, abolishing slavery sounded hopeless in 1854--as Henry David Thoreau no doubt knew."

Dana Milbank on Ron Paul's victory Ron Paul is winning the 2012 Republican primary, writes The Washington Post's Dana Milbank. He won't be the nominee, but that's not his goal. He wants to move the Republican party toward his libertarian platform, and in that, he is succeeding, Milbank says. "The success of this message," Milbank quotes Paul saying, "is way beyond my expectations. Who would've ever dreamed that, after 100 years, we'd be talking about the Federal Reserve at debates? I mean, this is fantastic." Paul tries to avoid sparring on a personal level with other candidates. He "has proven that issues can triumph," Milbank writes. Paul's message combines "apocalyptic" warnings that, Milbank quotes, "personal liberty is under attack. Our financial system is under attack," with "quirky libertarian tidbits," such as "the Austrian economists predicted [that] the artificial pseudo-gold-standard wouldn’t last," and "a draft is an enslavement." The Post's ombudsman wondered why his newspaper gives so little coverage to Paul. Milbank says they ignored him in 2008 because he seemed too far out, and they ignore him now because "his ideas have become commonplace." "Exhibit A: A letter sent Monday by Republican leaders to Bernanke urging the independent body not to stimulate the economy." "Exhibit B" is Perry's talk of Bernanke's "treason."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.