What Olmert Is Not Saying

Olmert apparently knows it is time to correct the historic error of 1967 and bring Israel back to a sane course of development, suitable to its size.

God and the devil, too, are in the details - and Ehud Olmert ignored the details knowingly in his weekend interviews. The voter who reads and hears his statements is left only with a general impression about the direction in which Kadima's leader is presuming to lead the state. The acting prime minister presents a goal that distinguishes his party from its two main rivals - Labor and the Likud - but remains vague in translating his vision into the language of action. He maintains such obscurity that the feasibility of that goal remains doubtful.

Olmert confirms what has been known for three months: Kadima will strive for a unilateral withdrawal from part of the West Bank because its leaders have despaired of negotiating with the Palestinians. This is the concept that guided Ariel Sharon, when he realized that Abu Mazen could not meet his expectations, and became even stronger after Hamas' victory. The very establishment of Kadima reflects a pessimistic diagnosis of Israel's chances to end its conflict with the Palestinians. Sharon chose to conclude that there is no partner to the negotiations and his new political way derives from this. His commitment to the road map was merely lip service. In this respect Olmert is indeed continuing the way of Kadima's founding father.

Olmert's interviews were a reminder of familiar positions. They were useful in a way because they refreshed the distinctions among the three major parties: while Kadima advocates a unilateral withdrawal, Labor espouses talking to the Palestinians, and the Likud believes in a belligerent military policy and aspires to continue holding onto the territories. However, Olmert's contribution to the public discourse on election eve is limited: The noise of the jingles, opinion polls and media spin eclipse the national debate on the future of the territories that should be going on these days, and his words are spreading unrealistic promises with no guarantee of keeping them.

What did Olmert say to his interviewers? That he would march Israel within four years to a brilliant future and complete separation between it and the majority of the Palestinian population. He promises a state behind fixed borders, with improved security, with a lot less external violence and more personal safety. How he is to achieve the goal, what he intends to do in the first month after his election to approach it, what interim stops are on the way - he does not elaborate. So he is no different from that balloon flyer, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Moreover, one can already see, in the scheme that Olmert is outlining, the mines that are bound to thwart his intention. He speaks of separating from the Palestinians but not necessarily from their territories; he heralds a readiness to withdraw but in the same breath sketches the large scope of settlement blocs and security areas he wants to keep in Israeli hands - thus demonstrating how idiotic is his assumption that this is the way to bring Israel to the era "which it will be fun to live in." As Qassam rockets keep being fired from the Gaza Strip, he promises a significant improvement in the security situation, but fails to explain how he will achieve this without talking to the other side.

Like all his predecessors in the past 40 years, Olmert is reluctant to cut the Gordian knot: he has reached the realization that Israel must get rid of the territories, but is not courageous enough to go ahead and do it. Rather than appearing as a statesman of national stature, he is portrayed as a politician of retail caliber, wishing to fulfill his personal dream and become prime minister, but without a great spirit of leadership. Olmert apparently knows it is time to correct the historic error of 1967 and bring Israel back to a sane course of development, suitable to its size. He has yet to convince us that he is endowed with the sense of mission and the required ability of carrying out his conclusion.