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Friday, January 11, 2008

Like father, like son

In 1991, the President of the United States tried to drag the Prime Minister of Israel to a 'peace conference' in Madrid. In those days, the 'Palestinians' were hidden in the Jordanian delegation, but in many other ways things were very similar to the way they are today with an American President believing that he could force a solution to the world's most intractable conflict. The Prime Minister of Israel didn't want to go, so the President caused Congress to hold up debate on $10 billion of loan guarantees for the resettlement of Russian Jews in Israel and forced the Prime Minister to go to Madrid. Through it all, the Prime Minister insisted that he would act only in Israel's best interests, and that he would build 'settlements' wherever and whenever he thought appropriate. Famously, the President stood up at a press conference, gave out the White House phone number and said that the Prime Minister should call him when he was ready to talk peace. In May 1992, the Prime Minister lost an election, largely because of the mistrust and fractured relations among Israel's right wing parties that resulted in several small parties each not receiving enough votes to be seated in the Knesset. The President was pleased. In November 1992, the President became the first (and thus far only) US President since Jimmy Carter in 1980 to lose his bid for a second term. The now-former Prime Minister was pleased.

The Prime Minister was Yitzchak Shamir. The President was George Herbert Walker Bush - sometimes called Bush 41 in the United States, and the father of the current President. While it's rare for an American President to interfere in Israeli politics, unfortunately, it's not unprecedented. Bill Clinton sent James Carville, his campaign adviser, here to engineer Ehud Barak's 1996 election victory over Binyamin Netanyahu. And tonight, George W. Bush - Bush 43 - urged Israeli cabinet ministers to keep his new poodle, the incompetent Ehud K. Olmert, in power for the sake of yet another dangerous attempt to force peace where none exists. But that's the difference between now and 1991. Yitzchak Shamir was a strong man who had nerves of steel. Ehud K. Olmert is an incompetent fool and a pathological liar.
US President George W. Bush blatantly intervened in Israeli politics at Thursday's working dinner at the Prime Minister's Residence, calling on the politicians there to support Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Bush spoke at length with Shas chairman Eli Yishai and Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman.

"Take care of Olmert, so he will stay in power," Bush said. "He's a strong leader. Israeli politics is like karate, that you never know when the next chop will come."

Yishai told Bush it would be a mistake to sign an agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, because it was impossible to make peace with half a nation. He said Israel could not compromise on refugees or Jerusalem.

Lieberman was less critical of the Annapolis process in his comments.

The Shas chairman spoke about the need for exchanges of territory and populations.

Olmert made sure that Strategic Affairs Minister Lieberman spoke to US security officials about Iran at the meal.
But Olmert isn't Yitzchak Shamir. Olmert has become a bad joke. Yesterday, The Washington Post called Olmert Bush's new poodle:

Olmert may have topped himself in his joint press conference Wednesday afternoon, which opened with the prime minister thanking Bush for "the power that you used for good causes for this region and for the world."

The two then went on to answer questions about Iran and the Middle East, but when the questions were over, Olmert could not resist thanking Bush for "the courage that you inspire in all of us to carry on with our obligations."

"Sometimes it's not easy, but when I look at you, and I know what you have to take upon your shoulders and how you do it, the manner in which you do it, the courage that you have, the determination that you have, and your loyalty to the principles that you believe in -- it makes all of us feel that we can also . . . move forward."

Even Bush seemed a bit embarrassed.

Olmert's praise is definitely attracting notice. In a briefing Monday about the president's trip, Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said Olmert is emerging as Bush's "biggest fan in the world." Citing the comments in the Jerusalem Post, he added, "That might earn Olmert another visit back" to Washington.

It might seem odd that Olmert is trying to attach himself to an unpopular president. But in Israel Bush is probably more popular than elsewhere, and it has generally been seen as good politics in Israel for the prime minister to be close to the American president. Even so, said Yaron Ezrahi, a political scientist at Hebrew University, Olmert is overdoing it.

"It evokes among Israelis a cynical response; it becomes an object of laughter," Ezrahi said in an interview. "I don't think a great statesman would engage in that kind of language."

Olmert will have another opportunity to learn from the master, however. On Friday, Bush will meet here with Blair, the former British prime minister. He has resurfaced as a Middle East envoy after leaving office much criticized for his closeness to Bush.

If only we could laugh about it. But we can't because it's our security at stake. Here's what they're saying about it in the Likud.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acted like a "sycophant" by excessively praising US President George W. Bush at their joint press conferences, rather than defending Israel's interests, senior Likud sources said Thursday.

The sources said opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, in contrast, devoted his 45-minute meeting with Bush and other top American officials to pressing for Israel's security concerns and its history to be taken into account when decisions are being made about the country's fate.

"Jerusalem has belonged to the Jewish people for 3,000 years and the Jewish people will ensure that it will remain undivided under Jewish sovereignty forever," Netanyahu told Bush at the capital's King David Hotel on Thursday morning.

To emphasize the connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, Netanyahu gave Bush a coin issued during the Great Revolt, just prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. The inscription on the coin included the words "Holy Jerusalem."

Netanyahu outlined a plan for peace with the Palestinians that involved building a strong Palestinian economy that would encourage peace from the bottom up instead of its imposition by politicians from the top.

But most of the meeting was devoted to the Iranian issue. Netanyahu pressed Bush to act against the Islamic Republic before he left office in January 2009.


Netanyahu told Army Radio that the test of Israeli leaders would always be "the ability to stand in front of our enemies and also our friends and say, 'These things are important for our security,'" adding that he did not believe Olmert shared this belief.

"We need to stand firm for our interests in the face of the current realities and for the values sacred to the people of Israel," Netanyahu said. "This is not something that lessens others' appreciation for us, but actually increases it. From my experience in international affairs, I have learned that world leaders respect Israeli leaders who know how to stand up for Israel's interests."
I doubt that anyone respects Olmert. Especially with that brown nose of his.


At 3:03 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

No one respects him. I doubt his rivals in Kadima really fear him. He has the lowest job approval rating of any Prime Minister. Now that Bush has left - Winograd is waiting in the wings and soon the knives will come out for Olmert.

At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Like mother, like son"


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