Indeed, "managing a country," as Ehud Olmert defined the prime minister's role in his Rosh Hashanah interview with Haaretz, is a worthy aim for a society. In most of the developed countries, a leader's statement that it is sufficient that he see to the proper running of the nation would not have drawn special attention.
However, an Israeli leader who throws away the challenge of peace - and this is what Olmert was referring to - is divesting the State of Israel of the main value in the name of which it was established.
The Declaration of Independence states: "We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness."
That same constitutive Zionist document also declares that the State of Israel "will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel." Either Olmert believes that the aforementioned goals have been achieved, or the prime minister has become a post-Zionist.
Presumably, Olmert had neither of these possibilities in mind. A Haaretz investigation of the conduct of government policy during Lebanon War II, which will be published in the Yom Kippur Eve edition, suggests another explanation for the prime minister's style.
The investigation reveals that for a long time, Olmert ignored the international and regional arena. During those critical days, he distanced himself from Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her ministry colleagues, who wanted to suggest a strategy for exiting the war correctly. As always happens, this time, too, the vacuum Israel left afforded an advantage to other elements.
There was no clear Israeli policy with respect to the desired diplomatic outcome of the military conflict. As a result, it was very difficult for the United States to deal with a French-Lebanese position that was based on principles drawn up previously by the G-8 countries. The lack of a diplomatic initiative on Israel's part in all channels after the war is inviting regional and international initiatives. In the nature of things, the extent of Israel's influence on them will be extremely limited.
In her book "The March of Folly," Barbara Tuchman wrote: "Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government. It consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs." the acute historian defined a leader's wooden-headedness as "acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts." She mentions Phillip II of Spain, "the surpassing wooden-head of all sovereigns," about whom it was said that "no experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence."
Olmert's failure, or at least, "lack of success," in achieving the goals he himself set for Israel at the beginning of the war has not succeeded in shaking his belief that ultimately, there was nothing wrong with his policy.
Olmert's retreat from his unilateral convergence plan leads to a suspicion that his determined support of the disengagement from Gaza did not indicate a change in his belief in a diplomatic policy of do-nothing. Olmert spent most of his years in politics in a camp that believes that time, American support, the Jewish settlements in the territories and harassment of the Palestinians would do the job.
His willingness to relinquish so easily the policy of separating from the occupation reinforces the hypothesis that the entire purpose of the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was to preserve Jewish rule in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Fortunately for Olmert, his coalition partners are also managing pretty well without a diplomatic "agenda." The Labor Party is busy as always with suicide attempts. Shas was and remains a sectarian party, for which peace is not a top priority. The Pensioners' Party is showing no interest in the future of its grandchildren, who will be sent to fight the next wars.
Unfortunately for him, and immeasurably more so for Israel, the right, under the leadership of Likud MK Benjamin Netanyahu and the extreme right, under the leadership of Yisrael Beiteinu MK Avigdor Lieberman are presenting an alternative. They have an agenda, and it is appealing to more and more Jews for whom shalom - peace - is an old-fashioned alternative to "Yallah, 'bye."
It seems that the choice is between a leader who has effectively relinquished the peace agenda and maintenance of the Jewish majority in accordance with the Zionist platform, and leaders who do not believe in this whole business of peace.
If this is so, leaders like Netanyahu and Lieberman are preferable. They, at least, frighten the neighbors. They will make it possible for the international community to know whom it is dealing with.
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