Olmert’s parting blows

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Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has never been a shrinking violet. And on Monday, he made clear that he has absolutely no intention of leaving the public stage quietly.

In a Rosh Hashana interview with Yediot Aharonot, Olmert admitted for the first time that he is negotiating deals with Syria and the Fatah-led faction of the Palestinian Authority committing Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, from dozens of neighborhoods in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, as well as from all or nearly all of Judea and Samaria.

Olmert noted that he is the first prime minister to state explicitly that he supports Israel's geographical contraction to the 1949 armistice lines. Indeed, none of his predecessors were ever so explicit. And his likely successor in office – Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni – loses her voice every time she is asked whether she believes that Israel should withdraw from Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and all of Judea and Samaria.

Olmert's willingness to spell out the expanse of the territorial handovers he supports makes him unique among Israel's premiers. But his stated view that Israel has no choice other than to withdraw from almost all the lands it took control of during the Six Day War has been the common view of every Israeli prime minister except Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu since 1993. Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon all signaled their support for this view. Indeed, all of their central policies while in office were predicated on it.

THE QUESTION is, why has this been the case? Why is it that for the past 15 years, at a certain point in their tenures every prime minister aside from Netanyahu has come to the conclusion that Israel must turn over its land to those sworn to its destruction?

Like Rabin, Peres, Barak and Sharon before him, Olmert makes no rational argument for withdrawal. He simply asserts it. And like his predecessors, Olmert uses three rhetorical tricks to support his assertion. First, he notes the uniqueness of his position as prime minister. Olmert knows Israel must surrender its land simply because he is prime minister. Sharon expressed this most clearly when he intoned, "What you see from here, you don't see from there."

Second, Olmert and his predecessors – and his likely successor Livni – all claim that "everybody knows" that Israel must withdraw. That is, you have to be completely out of your mind not to agree with me because every right-minded person agrees with me.

Olmert made this intellectually intimidating point explicitly on Monday in reference to the Golan Heights when he said, "I want to see if there is one person in the State of Israel who believes that it is possible to make peace with Syria without conceding anything on the Golan Heights."

Finally, Olmert and his predecessors – and his likely successor – argue that it is inevitable that Israel withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines. And since it is inevitable, it might as well be done right now. As Olmert said – again of the Golan Heights, – "I put it to you, say in the next year or two a regional war erupts and we find ourselves in a military confrontation with Syria… I ask myself, what happens after we beat them? First of all we will pay a price [for victory] and it will be painful. And after we pay what we pay, what will we say to them? 'Let's talk.' And what will the Syrians say? 'Let's talk about the Golan.'"

The assertion that a prime minister knows more than regular people is true. But no secret information in the world counterbalances empirical evidence that is open for all to see. While it may or may not be true that Israel can live at peace with the Palestinians and Syrians without returning to the 1949 armistice lines, it is manifestly true that neither the Syrians nor the Palestinians are interested in living at peace with Israel. So while an interesting theoretical question, the issue of whether Israel needs to give up land for peace is completely irrelevant today.

Both the Syrians and the Palestinians know that Olmert – like his predecessors since Rabin – is willing to go back to the 1949 armistice lines in exchange for peace. And operating on this knowledge, over the past 15 years, both societies have gravitated into the Iranian axis.

Today, at the same time as Syrian President Bashar Assad holds indirect talks about an Israeli surrender of the Golan Heights, he has amassed 25,000 soldiers on his border with northern Lebanon. He is rebuilding his nuclear program with Iranian money and North Korean scientists. He has pledged to the Iranians that he will continue arming Hizbullah and Hamas and that his negotiations with Olmert will be coordinated ahead of time with Iran.

As for the Palestinians, at every stage of their relationship with Israel for the past 15 years, every one of their leaders – from Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad alike – has been categorical in his refusal to accept Israel's right to exist. Moreover, insofar as Fatah is concerned, the violent conflict with Israel was supposed to have ended in 1993. In 1993, Yasser Arafat pledged that from then on, all of the Palestinians' issues with Israel would be resolved through negotiations and that terror would be combated, not fostered.

While calling for immediate territorial surrenders to enemies uninterested in peace, Olmert – like his predecessors – also claims that the risk involved in surrendering the Golan Heights, Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem is minimal because Israel is so strong. As Olmert put it, "We are stronger than they are. I tell you, Israel is the strongest country in the Middle East. We can handle all our enemies and we can handle all our enemies together and win."

Yet Olmert – like his predecessors – fails to acknowledge that if we give up the lands we took control over in 1967 we will be much weaker. And our ability to deter our enemies from joining together to attack us will be severely curtailed. He ignores the fact that it was Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 that inspired the Palestinians to attack us in September 2000. He ignores the fact that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 inspired Hizbullah to attack us in 2006. And he ignores the fact that Israel's failure to defeat Hizbullah in 2006 inspired Hamas to take control of Gaza in 2007. And in all of this, he ignores the fact that Hamas, Hizbullah and Syria are controlled by Iran.

AS FOR Iran, when the issue of Teheran's nuclear weapons program comes up, the leader who says we can beat all our enemies at once is suddenly singing another tune. Israel, "the strongest country in the Middle East," is crazy if it thinks it can defend itself against its most formidable foe.

In Olmert's view, "Part of our exaggeration of our power and our lack of any sense of proportion is found in the statements being made here about Iran… The assumption that if America, Russia and China and Britain and Germany don't know how to handle the Iranians that we the Israelis do know – this is an example of a loss of proportions."

So Olmert, like Sharon, Barak, Peres and Rabin before him, has made the determination that the only strategy that Israel can follow is one of utter defeatism and surrender. And he – like they before him – has made this strategic calculation in the face of empirical evidence that shows that whatever the costs of retaining the status quo – or of actually defeating our enemies – the cost of surrender and defeatism is surrender and defeat. That is, the cost to the country of following their lead to surrender is higher than the cost of not surrendering or subcontracting our survival to outside powers.

SO IF the view that Israel's only option is surrender has no basis in empirical evidence, what accounts for Olmert's baseless assertions?

The answer, unfortunately, is clear. Quite simply, life is easier for premiers, and much better for former premiers on the Left than
on the Right.

As Olmert considers his options going forward, he knows two things. First, he knows that the international lecture circuit is eminently more generous to former Israeli prime ministers who speak ill of Israel than it is for former premiers who defend Israel. Second, he knows that if he ever hopes to return to politics, he will only be able to return as the head of the Left. His explicit statements on the need for Israeli capitulation will serve him well in both ventures.

Then there is the issue of Olmert's legal woes. While Olmert's policy decisions are the same as all of his predecessors, the circumstances in which he is leaving office are analogous only to those that confronted Ehud Barak.

Like Olmert, Barak left office under a cloud of criminal probes. And in his final months in office, he cast all remaining vestiges of strategic rationality to the seven winds in his desperate negotiations with Arafat. Despite the fact that his government had already collapsed, neither the Supreme Court nor the Attorney-General's Office told him he lacked the legal right to concede Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem. And in recognition of his embrace of post-Zionism, once Barak was out of office, all the criminal probes against him were quietly closed.

Like Barak, Olmert probably won't be around long enough to conclude the surrenders he strives for. But that doesn't mean that his statements are not dangerous for the country.

Far-left politicians and their counterparts in the media claim that Olmert is brave to speak as openly as he has. And this is true. It does take some bravery to stick your finger in the eye of the general public – which doesn't support your views.

Olmert's statements and actions, which contradict the pledges he made to voters in 2006, are a slap in the face of the Israeli electorate. Unfortunately, the public has grown all too used to such blows. Rabin, Barak and Sharon were all elected on the basis of hawkish platforms. And they all abandoned their platforms after they were elected. This constant deceit has made the public cynical and engendered a sense of powerlessness among Israeli citizens. This sense is merely exacerbated by the sight of Livni working madly to avoid standing for election by attempting to form a new government. This is all the more true given that she rests her claim to governing legitimacy on her narrow victory in a tiny primary race riven by allegations of corruption.

So by ignoring the basic reality of Israel's strategic challenges and speaking of irrelevant concessions to imaginary peace partners while demonstrating his abject contempt for the public, Olmert is causing us great harm. He is reinforcing our belief that we have no option other than deceitful leaders who ignore our rights and reality. And this is a dangerous delusion. Because the truth is that not all of Israel's leaders are defeatists. There are still leaders who put the country first. They are simply not friends of Olmert's.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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15 Comments

  • marcel cousineau 10/03/2008 at 17:58

    ‘THE QUESTION is, why has this been the case?’
    Do you really want the answer ?
    Because Israel is in a bad marriage to U.S. Foreign Policy and her masters dictate Israel’s death by surrender and appeasment for a nonexistent peace.
    It’s easy to make the connection going back to 1993 where the plan to dismember and exterminate Israel under the lie of peace was sealed on the White House lawn with Rabin and the Killer of Jews ,Yasser under the wide smile of another Globalist,Billy C., son of Nimrod the hunter.
    You have to admit that the most gross of Palestinain ,Fatah,Hamas violations against the ‘process’ never cancel it.
    The continued Palestinian noncompliance has always been rewarded while Israel is always punished by her close friend and ally(?)
    The Palestinians bad behavior and never ending terrorism and threats to ahanillate the Jews has not been able to end this death sentence for Israel,what Arafat called the peace of the grave for every Jew.
    What is so shocking is the loyalty of the average Jew to their god and his Road Map to hell ,there is no revollt or stopping this madness only national suicide in return for lies of peace when we all know the real agenda.
    It seems Israel’s leaders all bow their knee to the Road Map to the gas chambers for Israel because they have no faith in Hashem and they are content being puppets of the Empire which destroys them by this false peace scam .
    Israel ,you Chiefest Idol is killing you by the peace process and you still are too cowardly and fearful to connect the dots to Washington.
    I think the ancient Jewish prophet Daniel could not believe his descendants could be so blind,naive,and stupid to fall for the U.S Foreign Policy Agenda whose goal is Israel’s destruction.
    ——————–
    And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify [himself] in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.
    Daniel 8:25

    Reply
  • Marc Handelsman, USA 10/03/2008 at 18:34

    Even if Israel foolishly surrendered more territory, and went back to the 1949 armistice lines, it wouldn’t be enough to satisfy Arabs. If Israel withdrawals from the strategic Golan Heights, it will have a false peace with Syria. Until Arabs genuinely accept Israel’s right to exist, no amount of concessions will work. Iran and its proxies want to wear down Israel’s resolve, and dismantle the country. Israel is only as strong as its leadership. And now is the time to bring back Likud to end the cycle of appeasement.

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  • Roy Burch 10/03/2008 at 18:36

    I don’t agree with giving up an inch of land. History proves it is a bad thing to do. The people who want to destroy Israel and the Jews should be made to leave the land. I believe a two state solution is wrong. A state in your midst that wants you destoyed?? That doesn’t sound right. Jeruselem belongs to the Jews and should remain that way. The ongoing desacration of the temple site and other holy sites is unthinkable. It should be stopped immediatly. We need strong leaders who see clearly and are not affaid to do what is best for Israel. Caroline Glick, I don’t know but she sounds like she would be a good PM or at least helping Benjimin when he is elected.. I live in California and my son went to Israel, he did aliya and joined the IDF and was in 2 Lebenon war. I and my entire family love the nation of Israel and may move there some day if possible.

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  • Will48 10/03/2008 at 19:26

    “the only strategy that Israel can follow is one of utter defeatism and surrender”
    what if what these premiers could see “from there” and we can’t see “from here” is that in reality Israel has no Bomb, and it all has been one long and very successfull ruse?
    What if Israel is really defenseless and totally dependent on American whims, and is actually extorted by them into surrendering the territories, pursuant to the Saudi/Arab agenda, dear to the American Establishment’s heart?
    Why else would Israel be denied access to F-22 when even Turkey is part of its consortium of makers?
    Why else would Israel be denied control of the new radar if not for the US to retain its total control of any Israeli action, making it totally dependent and in effect lose its independecy of decisions and submit to the American handlers?
    And what about R. turning at the sound of s. instead of falling down immediately, like any injured person would, with those wounds as per the commission’s description? If he wasn’t killed at THAT instant, then WHEN? and by WHOM? And why then all those who succeeded him not be afraid of similar fate and thus similarly totally controlled?

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  • Cantbelievemyeyesandears 10/03/2008 at 22:14

    Very good point here- ie the lecture circuit afterlife. He’ll make a $killing$. at EU and US universities.

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  • marcel cousineau 10/03/2008 at 23:04

    Caroline ,
    There are bad moderators at Jerusalem Post who refuse to let the truth be heard.
    I tried to get this message out twice on the Talkbacks there and it was censored.
    I’m amazed they let you write over there ?
    Is it as long as you don’t write the truth about the U.S. agenda to ‘help’ destroy Israel in stages which you always seem to leave out ?
    When are you going to take the next step ?
    I guess when I offend them by speaking ill of their god they don’t like it ?

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  • Bill K. 10/04/2008 at 5:54

    Ehud Olmert is a veritable tsunami of specious arguments. Among them are the Argument from Authority, the Argument from Intimidation, the Appeal to Ignorance and Begging the Question. All politicians engage in these tactics but Olmert seems to be more blatant than most.
    Israel is mostly surrounded by three failed states, actually more like pseudo-states, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. To one extent or another these failed states are terror states dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Israel is not morally obligated in the slightest to deal with these states in a peaceful manner. Since the only purpose of government is to protect the rights of its citizens, Israel is morally obligated to end these terror states and the threat they pose.
    The problem of what to do about Iran might then resolve itself. When Iran sees that its minions have been destroyed, that Israel is not the weakling it imagined, that Israel is acting with self confidence and conviction in its own righteousness, the mullahs would pull in their horns.
    Obviously this is not a task that the present Israeli government is up to.

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  • Jay 10/04/2008 at 9:21

    The West is becoming increasingly unstable. It’s happening in the U.S., Australia, and throughout much of the EU. What’s more there’s an increased push for Sharia law to be adopted in Western countries. Even Senator Obama supports such measures. He views Sharia to be compatible with the U.S. Constitution.
    Also, I was disappointed to hear Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin push for a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. As much as I respect Gov. Palin, she is dead wrong on this issue. I’m afraid she won’t see the error of her ways until Russia, Iran, and the Arab League starting lobbing nukes at Israel, but by then it may be too late.
    If the Republicans lose the presidential election, the days of U.S.-Israeli diplomatic relations will be numbered and an Obama administration will cause exceptionally grave damage to the U.S. and it may never recover. Contrary to what Senator Biden said in the VP debate this week, Obama and Biden are no friends of Israel. They will stab Israel in the back the first chance they get…
    It’s so frustrating that Benjamin Netanyahu has been unable to become PM. What is Tzipi going to do, talk the Iranians to death. Her name is appropriate, because she’s nothing more than a caged, little bird with no backbone to protect the Jewish State. Where are leaders such as David ben Gurion or Menahem Begin that will fight for Israel’s right to exist, instead of signing for a bill of goods that will threaten its existence. When did it stop being OK for Israel to be Israel? May God have mercy on us all.

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  • davis,br 10/04/2008 at 9:29

    Question: Would it [surrender of the Golan] confer tactical or strategic advantages, however short term? What might those be?
    If that question and follow-up cannot be answered positively …than Caroline? – The “view from here” having any actual validity is an oxymoron.
    You’re a geo-political theorist (and one of the better/best geo-p columnists IMO) …and if *you* cannot even imagine a positive, rational, scenario arising from the answers to that question, then “the view from here” perspective is merely a dodge.
    To acquire expertise, you must study. War is a study. The Left does not study war.
    Draw the correct conclusion.
    You do NOT surrender tactical assets *unless* the surrender confers *strategic* advantage. A battle purpose lost to win a war is no loss at all.
    …but you know this.

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  • marcel cousineau 10/04/2008 at 14:12

    ‘They will stab Israel in the back the first chance they get’…
    You mean just like Bush I & II did ?
    It’s so frustrating that Benjamin Netanyahu has been unable to become PM.
    Benji the poodle became P.M. and revealed his extraordinary qualities of being an A breed lap dog for the deadly U.S. agenda against Israel.
    He had his chance a proved what he was and he failed to halt the process because at heart he is just like the rest but with good speech which always proves to be empty words.
    You political whores who look to everyone but God have a handicap of blindness that keeps you doing the same stupid thing time after time.
    A corrupt ,lying, devious politician with an R or Likud after their name is often more dangerous than the lying crook with a D after their name.
    You get your hopes up with the latest false hope or a repeat phony only to have them dashed time after time after time.
    The great,great hope of Israel ,the destroyer of Israel, the Wolf Bush proved this beyond a doubt.
    Salvation or Peace for Israel will not come by way of Washington. That is a sure thing.
    So cut the leash and stop religiously following
    your false god.
    Yeremiah 17:5.

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  • Master of Obvious 10/04/2008 at 16:25

    Too long to read. Let me summarize.
    Treason > surrender > holocaust

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  • Jay 10/05/2008 at 19:52

    To Marcel:
    I agree with you that Israel should turn to God during this time of crisis; however, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would never spew the kind of venom that you did in your comment.
    Regarding PM Netanyahu, your characterization of his time in office is false. Look at the facts. During his time in office from 1996 to 1999, he had to fight an uphill battle to protect Israel, not just against terrorism, but also against a pro-Arab Clinton Administration and European Union, both of whom had pushed his predecessor into signing the very dangerous Oslo Accords in 1993. This was a perfect example of Israel being forced to make peace at any price which is inherently evil.
    Did the Oslo Accords bring peace? No, they did not. Following Oslo, there was an exponential increase in terrorism that PM Netanyahu inherited from the Rabin-Peres administration in 1996. Much of Netanyahu’s time in office was focused on fighting against such terrorism and dealing with Bill Clinton’s stupidity.
    Also, how could you expect PM Netanyahu to be able to fully govern effectively while Bill Clinton, Dennis Ross, Jacques Chirac, and Javier Solana were continually calling on Israel to make peace at any price with the Arabs? I’d like to see how you would have done. I think you would have been waving a white flag pretty quickly, oui?
    Just ask Caroline Glick about the Clinton Administration. She served as an aide to the former PM during his time in office and had to put up with a ton of stupidity from people such as Bill Clinton, Dennis Ross, Madeline Albright, and Javier Solana.
    When Ehud Barak became PM in 1999, did it usher in an era of peace between Israel and the Palestinians? Hardly. Do you remember the bombings that took place on his first night in office? Of course you don’t. About a year or so later, in 2000, the intifada began, during his time in office. Also, Israel was treated far worse under Clinton than they were under Bush 41 and 43.
    While President Bush 41 and 43 have been misguided in U.S.-Israeli diplomatic relations, at least they have not been malevolent towards Israel, which Obama and Biden certainly are. They do not have Israel’s best interests at heart.
    Also, please remember that Obama is receiving extensive financial and political support from the Arabs worldwide, including Nadhmi Auchi, the British-born Iraqi Billionaire who supported Obama’s first campaign for U.S. Senate several years ago. Auchi also helped the Iraqis funnel money for Saddam Hussein through the U.N. Oil for Food Program during the 1990s.
    PM Netanyahu and Caroline Glick believe in peace through strength for Israel. Real peace is not just the absence of conflict, it is the presence of justice for Israel. Any semblance of peace for Israel will come only from a position of strength. Ultimately, lasting peace will only come through the Prince of Peace, as outlined in Isaiah. Yes, I know the Bible too and I don’t worship a false God.
    PM Netanyahu and Caroline Glick that Israel should be able to maintain a strong military and have the ability to defend itself, when necessary.
    Israelis should leave free lives in a country whose territorial integrity in protected and includes ALL of Israel-Judea, Samaria, Galilee, and the Golan Heights.
    Finally, I agree with you that Israel and ultimately, all of us should turn back to God in repentance and sincerity of heart; however, having done so, God doesn’t just want us to be passive, he wants us to be active in the war on terror and against the agents of evil, such as Barack Obama. Obama and others like him represent the new evil that seeks to destroy both Israel and the West. Thank God for people like Caroline Glick and Benjamin Netanyahu who are modern day Maccabees fighting against tyrants, such as Barack Obama, who is a modern-day Antiochus Epiphanes.
    If you wish to align yourself with Obama and others like him, then you do do so at your own peril.
    Finally, whose side are you on?

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  • avision 10/05/2008 at 21:46

    Caroline – I am currently reading Menahem Begin’s The Revolt and the analogies to the present are impressive. For instance, the Left’s policy of self-restraint against Arab attacks (havlagah) looks very familiar! And Begin’s comment on that is very instructive. But most of all, his analysis of British policy towards the Jews is very deep. How they wished for a small, weak Jewish presence in Eretz Israel, and how they encouraged Arab pogroms when it suited them, so as to be needed as the moderating third party. This looks very similar to US policy on Israel today. The US seek to have a controlling presence in the middle east. The way to do it is to play Israel and the Arabs against each other, and interpose itself as the referee and “savior” of Jews and Palestinians. The current US radar system accepted by the Olmert/Kadima government is symbolic of this policy’s success for the US. They now have the “protective” role of a beleaguered Jewish ghetto that the Brits were aiming for. Israel has lost its sovereignty and is now at the mercy of its “friend”. Worth (re)reading Begin – wish he was still around. We need leaders like him – and you.

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  • avision 10/05/2008 at 21:54

    Someone made a comment earlier about the Jerusalem Post talkback “moderators” censoring views they don’t like. I second this complaint, to you the managing editor (in case you can do something about it, though I am sure you are not to blame). I have come to the conclusion that the JPost is a bad trip for me emotionally, and my new year’s resolution is to cut it out of my life. I have stopped reading the JPost, considering it as a Leftist medium (save for you and a few other columnists – Isy, Sarah, etc.) They use every opportunity they can to plug homosexuality and to demonize “settlers” – which shows the kind of Israel they aim for. Not my cup of tea.

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  • lawrence kohn 10/06/2008 at 12:01

    Added to Olmert’s disastrous for Israel remarks and intentions is his visit to Moscow where he will ask Putin to refrain from further arming Syria and Iran. Of course, it would be in Israel’s interest to end the further build up of Iranian and Syrian weaponry. But in the context of Olmert’s remarks the Prime Minister is going hat in hand to the great power sponsor of Syria, Iran, Hamas, Hizbullah and Fatah and giving Russia an opportunity to become a power broker in the area. This process already began when Bush I invited Moscow into the Madrid negotiations and continued with Kosyrev’s participation in the Oslo fiasco and Russia’s involvement as a member of the “Quartet”. Regardless of the drawbacks of the U.S. as Israel’s great power sponsor such as the refusal to accept Israeli forces in the Philadelphi corridor the entry of Russia brings to the area an active supporter and sponsor of terror states and terrorist groups with no shared democratic values with Israel. And remember, as Glick, but no one else reported, as soon as Israel withdrew from Gaza the Russians brought security forces there. All of this constitutes one more layer of danger for an Israel whose leaders have been blinded by the difficulties of administering the territories into continuous surrender and defeat.

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