One might have expected that in the twilight days of his premiership Ehud Olmert would be making an effort to try to improve somewhat the miserable record he leaves behind him. A record of more than two years of incompetence and political manipulations, at the expense of the people of Israel. But we should have known that this would be too much to expect of this man. Instead, he seems to have adopted the saying attributed to Louis XV: Apres moi le deluge - Who cares what happens after I leave office?
Olmert has thrown all caution to the wind. He is hell-bent on arriving at an agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas - an agreement that would not be implementable and end up on the shelf, while the concessions he has agreed to continue to constitute a minefield for any future negotiations with the Palestinians. It matters little to Olmert that, in his present position, and as his coalition is collapsing, he lacks the legitimacy to make these concessions on behalf of the people of Israel. After all, who cares what happens after he's gone?
As if this were not enough, the prime minister has begun negotiations with Damascus, based on his readiness to turn the Golan Heights over to the Syrians. Obviously, nothing will come of these negotiations, other than the certain damage they will cause to Israel's long-term interests. Does he care?
Olmert's incessant talk of the danger posed to Israel by Iran's project of nuclear armament does no one any good, and his public appeals to the U.S. president, and advertised consultations with him on the subject, can only do Israel harm. By now, he should have known what everybody should know: that in this case, silence is the best tactic. But if Olmert can create the image among the Israeli public that he has left no stone unturned in his efforts to forestall this danger, who cares? It is difficult to determine which of Olmert's utterances have been the most senseless or the most harmful, but his recent statement that Israel must rush to complete negotiations with the Palestinians' Abbas, because we are not likely to see in the future as friendly an administration in Washington as the present one, certainly must figure close to the top of the list.
The U.S.-Israeli relationship is based on firm foundations of common values, ideals and strategic interests that do not depend on whether the administration in Washington is Republican or Democratic. The relationship is a major part of Israel's strategic posture and should not be impaired by Israeli politicians under any circumstances. Although some Israeli prime ministers have in the past made the unfortunate mistake of indicating their preference for one of the candidates in the American presidential elections, until now, no one until has been as blatant as Olmert when he declared that the next administration would not be as friendly to Israel as the present one. That statement is certainly not likely to advance our country's relationship with the next administration. If at all, the contrary should have been said: We expect the relationship with the next administration, regardless of who is elected president of the United States, to be even better.
Good as relations between the two countries are, there is room for improvement. For years we have been waiting for America to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a matter of paramount interest to Israel. For years we have been waiting for Jonathan Pollard to be pardoned.
And certainly not least important: U.S.-Israel technological cooperation, which reached an unprecedented peak before the unfortunate Israeli decision two decades ago to cancel the Lavi fighter project, has regrettably fallen to the lowest level ever in recent years. The export of Israeli defense products now requires American approval, and the procurement in the U.S. of parts for Israeli weapons-system development has been made intolerably difficult. This situation has been deteriorating seriously in recent years, to the severe detriment of the Israeli defense industry, which is an essential element of Israel's ability to defend itself.
We should hope that the next American administration will address some of these Israeli concerns, and we have a right to expect that the next Israeli government will make it its business to pursue these objectives, which have been utterly neglected by Olmert's government. If he thinks that we have nothing to look forward to with the next U.S. administration, he is dead wrong.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now