Ehud Olmert on the Gaza Withdrawal – A Dreamy Return to Oslo
by Daniel Pipes
He calls the withdrawal "a remarkable process … that will have an enormous impact on everything that will happen thereafter, in the State of Israel and in the Middle East." He emphasizes its unilateral nature: "we don't have to wait anymore, that we really don't need the United States to lead the process in the Middle East, we will lead this process in the Middle East." He then soars with this theme of leadership:
Then comes the plaintive Song of Oslo that I never expected to hear from a leader of Likud:
And we all desperately need it. We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors.
For all the talk of a grizzled, post-Oslo realistic approach to the Palestinians, Olmert still proffers some old (and one would think discredited) hopes, saying this friendship
In an insight into the Sharon camp's thinking, Olmert explains the logic of the withdrawal:
Oh, in other words, the hopes of Oslo really do live on. Further confirmation of Likud's ascent to Cloud Cuckoo Land comes next:
It does not get much more woolly-minded than that.
Olmert ends by praying that with the removal of all Israelis from Gaza, "a new morning of great hope will emerge in our part of the world." He also prays that "the Palestinian leadership will seize this opportunity, will become as responsible as they need to be, will manifest courage and determination."
Comment: (1) I have known and thought well of Olmert for years (see my 1997 interview with him, "I Am the Most Privileged Jew in the Universe"); I can't imagine what has happened to him.
(2) I see Olmert roughly in the role to Sharon in 2005 as Peres was to Rabin in 1993.
(3) Although the Gaza gambit is portrayed as unilateral, the above speech sure sounds like a plea for the Palestinians to respond in kind. In other words, it's really just another Israeli concession in hopes of winning a later reward from the Palestinians.
(4) "A new morning of great hope"? Forgive me for the interjecting a note of realism, but the whole of Oslo proved one thing clearly, that unilateral concessions by Israel to its enemies makes things worse, not better for Israel. So it will be, I predict, this time. (June 9, 2005)
Aug. 28, 2005 update: That "new morning of great hope" may already have ended. Today, at 8:30 a.m. Israel time, less than a week after the Gaza withdrawal's completion, a suicide bomber identified as as Ayman Zakik, 25, from near Hebron attacked the Beersheba bus station with the intent to murder as many Israelis as he could. Thanks to the quick action of two guards, he could only blow himself up outside the station and so appears not to have killed anyone, though the two guards are fighting for their lives. It amazes me that anyone could have "great hope," given the ferocious rhetoric and intense planning of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to attack Israel as soon as the withdrawal ended.
Jan. 4, 2006 update: In the wake of Sharon's physical disability, Olmert has taken over has acting prime minister of Israel and, in a sense, history is repeating itself. Peres led Rabin to the Oslo diplomacy and took over when Rabin was assassinated. Olmert led Sharon to the Gaza withdrawal and now takes over when Sharon is hospitalized. We shall see how far the parallel will continue.
Aug. 24, 2006 update: In the wake of Israel's not winning its war against Hizbullah, Olmert's "tired of winning" comments of a year earlier are being recalled, for example in Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, "Olmert Slammed For Being 'Tired of Winning'" and P. David Hornik, "Israel's New Hope?"
Nov. 5, 2007 update: Olmert has done himself one better, with a statement of defeatism likely to go down in the quote books: "Peace is achieved through concessions. We all know that." This pronouncement came in a speech on the twelfth anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination.
Nov. 30, 2007 update: At a certain point, one ceases to be surprised, but Olmert's ability to astonish remains strong. From an interview with Ha'aretz:
Mar. 26, 2009 update: As Ehud Olmert soon shuffles off the political stage, Efraim Inbar offers a stinging assessment of his record in "Olmert's Palestinian Failures." Its summary:
Aug. 30, 2013 update: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has taken a leaf from Olmert's book, saying in reference to a possible attack on the Syria government for its use of chemical weapons nine days ago: "after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about."
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