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Wolfensohn’s Failed Mission

Shahar Smooha writes in Haaretz:

Wolfensohn landed in the Middle East in May 2005 in order to monitor the Israeli disengagement from Gaza and to help heal the badly ailing Palestinian economy. In the beginning he was full of hope: He was able to raise $9 billion ($3 billion a year for three years) to bolster the Palestinian economy, and in November 2005, three months after the disengagement, he served as the mediator between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in negotiations on transit routes and on access to and from the Gaza Strip. He also donated money of his own to help the Palestinians buy Israeli-owned greenhouses in Gaza.

However, the departure of Ariel Sharon from the political arena in January 2006, the fact that Wolfensohn’s efforts were constantly undermined by none other than the U.S. administration, and the rise of Hamas to power combined to derail his mission. At the end of April 2006, fed up with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and after understanding that he would not get backing from the Quartet, he decided to pack it in. He returned to the United States, where he divides his time between Manhattan and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and tried to leave the failed mission behind him.

For more than a year, Wolfensohn kept his feelings about his year in the Middle East to himself. He watched, appalled, as the disengagement plan failed and as violence continued to rage in the region. It was only after the recent takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas and the appointment of former British prime minister Tony Blair to the post he held that Wolfensohn agreed to speak on the record.

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