Hell hath no fury like a politician spurned and Ehud Olmert is proving the truth of this statement. In an interview with Channel 2 news (Hebrew and English here), he dropped a bombshell: Bibi Netanyahu and his fellow buccaneer Ehud Barak, have salted away nearly $3-billion in the Israeli budget for what the former PM calls Bibi’s “delusional adventure.” Olmert further claims that the plan for which the funding has been allocated will never be carried out, inferring that this is Bibi’s Folly, a war that may never be fought. Though the precise meaning isn’t specified, it clearly implies he’s speaking of an attack on Iran.
What’s shocking about this revelation is that such figures and information would normally be held as top-secret and under strict military censorship. After all, for any country wanting to know how many resources Israel has dedicated to this attack, whether it be Iran or the U.S., such knowledge is a gold mine. Which is why I’m shocked this story hasn’t been censored. Of course, I’m glad it hasn’t because knowledge that such a vast sum has been reserved for war against Iran should raise further doubts in the minds of Israelis about the wisdom of this military adventurism. Do Israelis really want to dedicate such a sum to a project with so little promise of a positive outcome?
While Olmert’s candor is of course welcome, one marvels that he’s caught that severe ailment that afflicts many Israeli leaders once they leave office: an attack of truth-telling. While in office they found every reason to delay and temporize regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict, but once rid of the trappings of power they start telling the world how things should be. This, of course, raises the question: why didn’t they do something while they had power?
When he was PM, he had a golden opportunity to negotiate a peace treaty with Syria, but instead chose a disastrous war in Gaza. He also fought a second war in Lebanon that was equally tragic for Israel. Instead of offering the PA a deal it could sell to the Palestinians, Olmert offered a sham deal that came back to haunt Abbas when it was exposed by Al Jazeera. Of course, in Olmert’s eyes he’s the hero because he came within a fraction of making peace. History won’t see it that way I’m afraid.
Not to mention that he frittered all of this potential good away by enriching himself with sordid financial schemes. Bill Clinton liked women and Olmert liked SlimFast boxes filled with cash. If it sounds like I’m angry, I am. Here was a politician who’d traveled a long political road from his extreme right-wing parental legacy of the Irgun to Israel’s political center. He might have continued Ariel Sharon’s moves toward conciliation and territorial compromise if he’d had the right stuff. But alas he didn’t. And Israel will suffer for it.
In a sense, Olmert’s revelation continues his tradition of having loose lips regarding Israeli secrets (and thank God for that). It was Olmert while he was PM who was the first Israeli leader to admit Israel had nuclear weapons. As an aside, in Ronen Bergman’s puff piece interview with Shimon Peres in the New York Times Magazine, Peres too exposes Israel’s worst kept secret when he praises himself for creating the nation’s nuclear program:
I do not think there are many people in the world who can say they managed to…create a nuclear option in a small country…
What is of course ironic about all this is that when Shimon Peres violates Israeli secrecy he’s an international statesman, but when Anat Kamm does it she’s a criminal (and traitor). Let it not be said that Israel lacks for hypocrisy.
Returning to Peres’ interview, the nonagenarian may be verging on political irrelevance, but he does have some sharp and telling things to say against the disaster that has been Bibi Netanyahu’s leadership. It’s instructive that a liberal Zionist like Peres raises the specter of apartheid and international boycott as serious prospects if Israel continues on its current course.
Here Peres warns of the outcome should Israel continue to refuse to reach a reasonable settlement with the Palestinians:
“Most of the world will support the Palestinians, justify their actions, level the sharpest criticism at us, falsely label us a racist state. Our economy will suffer gravely if a boycott is declared against us. The world’s Jews want an Israel they can be proud of and not an Israel that has no borders and that is considered an occupying state.
…If Israel were to stand alone, its enemies would swallow it up. Without U.S. support, it would be very difficult for us. We would be like a lone tree in the desert.
…There are a billion and a half Muslims. The Palestinian problem affects our entire relationship with them. If the Palestinian problem were to be solved, the Islamist extremists would be robbed of their pretext for their actions against us. Of course, this requires concessions.
This statement in particular will give Elliot Abrams and all neocons apoplexy:
If the Palestinian problem were solved, Islamist extremists would be robbed of a pretext for their actions against us.”
Of course, Peres being a liberal Zionist, there is a good deal of utter nonsense in the interview as well, including sexist claptrap about not making love with one’s eyes open and this Bergman pure puffery, which I don’t ever recall reading in any other New York Times interview:
It is a pleasure to spend time with this man.