Ehud Olmert, Israeli
vice prime minister
But today, I received a postcard from IPF that unnerved me. The upcoming June 9th gala Tribute Dinner features Ehud Olmert as keynote speaker. Those who can remember back a year or so ago will remember that Olmert announced that the government was seriously considering assassinating Yaser Arafat (see my post on the subject). Since when does a politician who proposes a government policy that might arguably be considered a war crime if not a breach of international law get rewarded with an invitation to address an organization devoted to Israeli-Palestinian peace? I can imagine that IPF might’ve reasoned that Olmert is one of the more moderate ministers of Sharon’s hotheaded cabinet. Olmert seems to be the designated Israeli official for release of “dovish” or moderate pronouncements regarding the conflict. So IPF’s thinking must be that it wants to signify a receptiveness to the views of Israeli political opponents who might share some of IPF’s tactical, if not strategic vision.
I can understand the thinking in a sense. But I simply don’t buy it. To me, this is akin to the ACLU inviting Alberto Gonzales to address their annual dinner. It just doesn’t make much sense. This seems to me one of the odder programming ideas I’ve heard for a progressive Jewish organization. Ehud Olmert is marginally more receptive to the concept of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians than Sharon is (which is not at all). Olmert has not made clear that in his vision Israel would accept the creation of a viable, territorially contiguous Palestinian state. While Olmert publicly supports a limited settlement withdrawal from the Territories, he has never defined his prescriptions for withdrawal: how many settlements? which ones? where? And finally, Olmert as I’ve watched him on NIghtline and read his statements in the press over the years strikes me as an efficient Likud street fighter, a tough and ruffian of the first order. I’d hate to meet him in a political dark alley. Keep in mind, he was the most senior government official to suggest publicly that Israel was considering To me, this makes Olmert pasul and treif. Inviting him to be the keynote speaker at your major annual fundraising dinner is like breaking bread with the devil.
I called IPF to ask them to explain their thinking in inviting Olmert to speak. The director’s assistant said he would convey the message to him, but thus far I have heard nothing. I will be happy to add their reponse to this post once I receive it.