Former Israeli Prime Minister to visit College

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will visit the College today and give a talk in the afternoon about Israel’s political position after the Arab Spring. He will meet with faculty, students and Dickey Center fellows and will join College President Phil Hanlon for a private dinner.

In his lecture, Olmert will analyze Israel’s prospects for peace with its neighbors following the Arab Spring.

Dickey Center director Daniel Benjamin emphasized the timeliness of Olmert’s visit, which corresponds with new U.S. efforts to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“It’s an important time because Secretary of State Kerry has worked very, very hard to get negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians going,” he said. “Ehud Olmert supported these firmly and came closer to forging a peace deal than probably anyone else.”

Olmert, who served as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2009, proposed a peace plan in 2008 that would have granted Palestinians some control over specific religious sites in Jerusalem. He was forced to resign from office over charges of corruption and has since devoted his post-retirement efforts to advocating for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who has supported policies of Israeli expansion into the West Bank, succeeded him as prime minister.

Posters criticizing Olmert’s visit have appeared on bulletin boards around campus. The flyers included slogans such as “Olmert: War Criminal Speaks of Peace” and “Israel: A Racist Road to Peace.” Real Talk Dartmouth posted a “call to action” on its Facebook page, inviting students concerned about Olmert’s visit to a discussion in Baker Library on Sunday.

Real Talk members did not respond to requests for comment.

When asked about student opposition to Olmert’s visit, Benjamin stressed the importance of maintaining an environment of mutual respect.

“We’re only going to get somewhere if we can have a dialogue about these issues,” he said.

Visiting government professor Bernard Avishai invited Olmert to campus. The two met in Jerusalem in 1974 when Avishai was a journalist for the New York Review.

“I would interview him regularly because he was a very young, ambitious member of this new party that was then just forming called the Likud,” Avishai said.

Avishai interviewed Olmert for his 2007 book “The Hebrew Republic,” and wrote a New York Times Magazine article in 2011 comparing Olmert’s and Palestinian National Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s peace proposals.

“I hope that students will come out to his speech, give him a respectful hearing, ask hard questions, and engage in the kind of give-and-take that he is prepared for,” Avishai said.

Zach Kamin ’14, co-chair of J-Street Dartmouth, a pro-peace, pro-Israel advocacy group, said Olmert’s insight is valuable since much of his work in office is the basis of peace negotiations today.

“I’m personally excited and fascinated to hear the insight he has to give with his level of experience he has as former prime minster of Israel,” Kamin said.

Feras Abdulla ’17, an international student from Bahrain, said in an email that he has more respect for Olmert than for Netanyahu.

“He seems to want to establish peace in the area and ease tensions more than his successor,” Abdulla said.

Ohlmert’s visit is sponsored by the Dickey Center and the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.

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