Will Olmert Make A Lame Duck Peace Push?


comments by Emanuel A. Winston, Middle East Analyst & Commentator

Clearly, everyone in Israel, possibly the entire world, believes that Ehud Olmert and his infamous gang of miscreants will make every effort to cheat the Israeli people. He and his confederates are planning to stay in power at least up to February or March – according to Haim Ramon.

The following WALL ST. JOURNAL opinion piece of August 1st is accurate in its assessment. What may be missing is the deal Olmert tries to work out with Ehud Barak, Tzippi Livni and Shimon Peres to get a pardon for his crimes IF he steps aside.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s announcement — that he intends to resign following his party’s mid-September primaries to select a new leader — was greeted graciously across the Israeli political spectrum. Even political rivals commended Mr. Olmert for displaying courage and dignity in acknowledging his inability to continue leading the country under a pall of police investigations into his alleged corruption. In fact, though, Mr. Olmert may be about to embark on one of the most politically corrupt maneuvers in Israel’s history.

According to aides, Mr. Olmert intends in the coming weeks to intensify negotiations with both Syrian and Palestinian leaders. He knows, of course, that what remains of his term is hardly enough time to reach an agreement on either track. Instead, he seeks to create the foundation for a future agreement — hoping, aides say, to ensure that he isn’t remembered only as the prime minister removed from office by scandal.

But there could be a more nefarious motive at work: that Mr. Olmert will use peace negotiations to prolong his stay in office. According to this scenario, neither of Mr. Olmert’s likely successors, Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni or Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, is likely to create a stable coalition. The collapse of the government would then be followed by elections, which, polls say, would result in a victory for Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Olmert may believe that progress toward a peace agreement with either the Palestinians or the Syrians will convince the all-powerful Israeli media — overwhelmingly left-wing and deeply antagonistic to Mr. Netanyahu — to support his continuation in office.

There is precedent for Mr. Olmert to suspect that such a maneuver might actually work. Advocates of this scenario recall that, following the disastrous Lebanon War two years ago, Mr. Olmert attempted to deflect calls for his resignation by meeting with leading figures on the Israeli left, including novelist Amos Oz. If you don’t support me and my peace initiatives, he is said to have warned them, you will end up with Netanyahu as prime minister. In fact, Mr. Olmert’s peace efforts on the Syrian and Palestinian tracks led to a demonstrative reduction in calls for his resignation in the Israeli media.

Mr. Olmert’s use of peace negotiations to ensure his political survival was sufficiently cynical then. Now, in his desperation to achieve progress in negotiations — either with an eye toward his place in history or toward prolonging his stay in office — he could make concessions that violate Israel’s most basic positions.

Mr. Olmert may be tempted to concede the Syrian demand, rejected by three former Israeli prime ministers, for a foothold on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s main fresh-water source. Likewise, on the Palestinian track, Mr. Olmert could undermine Israel’s refusal to accept the principle of the “right of return” of descendants of Palestinian refugees to the Jewish state. For Syrian and Palestinians leaders, Mr. Olmert’s vulnerability presents an opportunity to extract concessions from Israel that would not be attainable under a more legitimate prime minister.

True, those concessions would almost certainly be dismissed as meaningless by the Israeli public and by the Knesset. The danger for Israel, though, is that the international community is likely to regard Mr. Olmert’s concessions as binding on his successor. According to former chief American Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross, that was precisely the intention of Prime Minister Ehud Barak who, in January 2001, knowingly made far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians in order to commit his successor, Ariel Sharon.

Despite the accolades of Israeli leaders, Mr. Olmert has long since forfeited his chance to honorably leave office. He should have resigned following the Lebanon War, or after admitting that he had accepted envelopes filled with cash from New York businessman Morris Talansky, or after being accused of stealing from charities to subsidize his family’s vacations abroad.

Mr. Olmert’s replacement offers the political system a chance to begin healing itself from pervasive corruption. For a country facing existential threat, maintaining the public’s trust in the decency of its leaders is an essential component of national defense. Israel does not have a written constitution. But it does have a powerful social contract, according to which the leader who sends Israelis into battle or who decides on ceding territory vital to Israel’s future must be perceived as acting from national, and not personal or political, motives. Mr. Olmert has violated that contract.

Members of Mr. Olmert’s Kadima party, and of the governing coalition, need to ensure that all substantive negotiations with Arab leaders are suspended until a new prime minister assumes office. Allowing Mr. Olmert to negotiate over life-and-death issues means continuing to hold Israel hostage to his political maneuvers.

Messrs. Klein Halevi and Oren are senior fellows at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

August 4, 2008 | 2 Comments »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

Leave a Reply

2 Comments / 2 Comments

  1. Notice that despite his announcement to ultimately step down, there has been no let up in the AGs investigation or threat to prosecute Olmert. The leftists will bleed Olmert (and Israel) for every last concession right up until the time he is no longer useful to them.

    Pull the string and I’ll wink at you, I’m your puppet
    I’ll do funny things if you want me to, I’m your puppet

    I’ll be yours to have and to hold
    Darling you’ve got full control of your puppet

    Pull another string and I’ll kiss your lips, I’m your puppet
    Snap your finger and I’ll turn you some flips, I’m your puppet

    Your every wish is my command
    All you gotta do is wiggle your little hand
    I’m your puppet, I’m your puppet

    I’m just a toy, just a funny boy
    That makes you laugh when you’re blue
    I’ll be wonderful, do just what I’m told
    I’ll do anything for you
    I’m your puppet, I’m your puppet

    Pull them little strings and I’ll sing you a song, I’m your puppet
    Make me do right or make me do wrong, I’m your puppet

    Treat me good and I’ll do anything
    I’m just a puppet an you hold my string, I’m your puppet
    Yeah, I’m your puppet

    Walking, talking, living, loving puppet
    I’m hanging on a string girl, I’ll do anything now

    I’m a walking, talking, living, loving puppet, and I love you

    I’m a smiling happy face when you want me to
    Even make you happy when you’re feeling blue