Ehud Olmert’s chutzpah never ceases to amaze me. The guy bombed Lebanon back to the Stone Age, killed 1,000 of its citizens, obliterated entire Beirut neighborhoods, still occupies its southern tier, still blockades its air and sea lanes, and refuses to return Shebaa Farms. In addition, Israel by most accounts lost the war. Yet he somehow has the temerity to say the following (also covered by the NY Times) with a straight face:
“How natural it would be if the Lebanese prime minister replied to the many requests I conveyed to him, through different people, to sit down together, shake hands, make peace and end once and for all the hostility, fanaticism and hatred that part of his country feels toward us,” Mr. Olmert said at a school in Maalot-Tarshiha, in northern Israel. The town was a frequent target of Hezbollah rockets during the fighting in July and August.
“How natural, how understandable it would be for the prime minister of Lebanon to respond to the many calls I have made toward him and say, ‘Come on, let’s sit, shake hands, make peace and end once and for all the hostility and jealousy,” he said.
“I hope this day comes soon. I yearn for it. I am sure that you yearn for it. I’m sure all of Israel yearns for it. But until then, we will do everything, thoughtfully, responsibly to handle everything needed to be ready for every opportunity,” Olmert said.
Why certainly. It’s as simple as that. Let’s develop a severe case of amnesia and forget the war ever happened. We’ll forget that Israel had decades to make such an approach to previous Lebanese prime ministers and never did so. All that inconvenient stuff will just evaporate before our very eyes so we can concentrate on magnanimously giving Israel something it never earned: a full peace with Lebanon.
I also find laughable this phrase: “…End once and for all the hostility, fanaticism and hatred that part of his country feels towards us.” First, there is an assumption that some part of Lebanon does NOT feel hostility toward Israel. Which part would that be, Mr. Olmert? Who in Lebanon harbors any fond feeling for Israel? Second, there is an assumption in Olmert’s statement that the problem inhibiting peace lies solely on the Lebanese side; that no Israeli feels “hostility, fanaticism and hatred” toward Arabs, and specifically the Lebanese. Tell me, how do you do the horrific things to Lebanon which the IDF did while not feeling hateful emotions of this sort?
Olmert’s “opening” to Lebanon is, of course, entirely laughable. He doesn’t care a whit about peace with Lebanon. He knows that his overture to Siniora, if it really ever did happen, is DOA. How could a Lebanese prime minister seriously entertain such a negotiation when 40% of his population (Hezbollah and the Shiites) detests Israel and never wants to hear the words “peace” and “Israel” in the same sentence? Besides, without coming to agreement with Syria first, how does Olmert expect Lebanon can come to agreement with him? Does he expect that Siniora will make peace with Israel and essentially leave Hezbollah and Syria high and dry? What a fool he is if he thinks any such thing is even remotely possible.
Actually, Olmert cynically thinks that he’s done a cagey thing by shaking an olive branch at Lebanon. Instead of being called warmongers by the world community, he thinks Israel will look like a dove for a change. While he’s earning brownie points, he makes Lebanon look intransigent for their refusing to take the bait. In addition, Olmert plants a seed of doubt and division by trying to peel off Siniora and his crowd from Hezbollah and Syria. Divide and conquer so to speak. What a crock! This looks like the patently self-serving and meaningless gesture it is.
For Olmert, the real reason for this statement lies in where it was spoken. To start the Israeli school year, the prime minister decided to visit the kids in the north. He understands that his Achilles heel is there due to the extraordinary suffering to which it was subjected by Hezbollah rockets. In that Machiavellian mind of his, he’s thinking of his northern audience when he poses the idea of a peaceful resolution to the Lebanon conflict. He says: “Let’s go to the north and tell them we really tried for peace with Lebanon. Won’t that make us smell like a rose up there.” He knows there won’t really be peace with Lebanon. He doesn’t even care if there is. He just wants his northern constituents to think he does.
Here is the true recipe for peace with Lebanon: end the blockade, remove all troops from Lebanese soil, express a willingness to return Shebaa Farms to Lebanon, exchange Lebanese prisoners for the two kidnapped IDF soldiers, return the Golan to Syria. And in return demand that Lebanon and Syria recognize Israel and that they demilitarize the border zones of all three countries. Clean and simple. Yet this will never happen under Olmert’s watch because he doesn’t have the political balls, smarts or vision to bring it off.
And on a related note, listen to this cloud cuckoo land stuff from the PM about his plans for the north:
Olmert also vowed to invest resources so that the Galilee and north would be a “flourishing paradise.”
…”Sometimes doubts arise when you hear laments, but when you free yourself and the fog clears, you encounter the nation of Israel, the optimism, the joy, pride and creativity – then you say that no one can defeat us.”
A flourishing paradise indeed. The region has always lagged behind the rest of the country economically. Poverty rates are higher than in other regions. So how does he propose to change 55 years of prior political neglect? He doesn’t really intend to. It’s just rhetoric along the lines of George Bush telling New Orleans that he’d do everything necessary to make the city whole again. While we thought at the time that Bush’s words might’ve been sincere. We now know that they weren’t. Olmert doesn’t even get such a break because we know the words were hollow the moment he uttered them.
As for the “fog clearing,” that might be the minds of Israelis who had the misfortune to vote for Olmert and his Kadima charlatans in the last election expecting he would bring peace with the Palestinians through territorial withdrawals and that he would address social and economic inequities in Israeli society. Instead, these same voters may now be saying: “all I got was this fucking Lebanon T-shirt.”
I don’t know where Olmert’s seeing “optimism, joy, pride and creativity.” Maybe that’s the Potemkin Israel he’s living in which has almost no resemblance to the real Israel we know–the one that is demoralized and angry. The one that hates his guts and can’t wait for a State commission of inquiry to fry his ass.