Ehud Olmert bowed to the inevitable yesterday and resigned as Israeli prime minister effective September 17th, the date of the next Kadima party leadership primary. Beset on all sides by up to six separate corruption investigations, the most serious of which involved accepting several hundred thousand dollars in cash and gifts from U.S. businessman Moshe Talansky, Olmert realized that his continued leadership was untenable. In addition, he had little political credibility or traction with the nation because of both his ethical lapses and his failed prosecution of the 2006 war in Lebanon.
There were several options that Olmert could have chosen in resigning and the one he picked will send the Kadima party into a flurry of political jockeying before the primary elections. The leading candidate is centrist foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who has made a name for herself as a political pragmatist, though she comes from a prominent rightist political family. She pointedly departed from Olmert during the Lebanon war and refused to participate in promoting or defending it, a surprisingly independent move for a sitting foreign minister. Her chief challenger is transportation minister, former IDF commander in chief and hawk Shaul Mofaz. It was Mofaz who single-handedly caused a multi-billion dollar rise in the international price of oil a few weeks ago, with his statement that Israel faced no choice but to attack Iranian nuclear installations. The latest polls (which are inherently unstable in Israeli politics) show Livni with a significant but falling lead over Mofaz.
The political instability Olmert caused with his resignation portends well for the possible political comeback of perennial prime minister candidate Bibi Netanyahu, leader of the rightist Likud opposition. Should the Kadmina-led coalition falter, Netanyahu eagerly waits in the wings for his second opportunity to lead the nation. His first prime ministership was marked by a hardline approach to the Israeli-Arab conflict and an unwillingness to negotiate over major issues dividing the parties. He also has a reputation as a fiscal hawk willing to restrain spending on Israel’s safety net for its large population of poor, unemployed and ultra-Orthodox Jews. When he served as finance minister his policies were known for fiscally punishing the most vulnerable of Israel’s citizens. Current polls show that if a new election were held now Netanyahu would become prime minister.
Naturally, this is something Kadima and its junior coalition partner, Labor, seek to prevent at all costs. But the current government is a fragile reed including multiple parties each with its own separate social and political agenda. It remains to be seen whether the new party leader can hold together these disparate elements.
The biggest casualty in Olmert’s downfall may be his various peace initiatives initiated as his political career entered its most unstable phase. He began third party peace talks with Syria brokered by Turkey several months ago. With great willingness by both sides to compromise, it appeared that such talks might bear fruit in a relatively short period of time. More complicated and less productive have been U.S.-mediated talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
If there are national elections and Netanyahu wins, each of these negotiating tracks may fall victim to his assumption of the reins of power. He is known as a deep skeptic regarding the possibility of peace with the Arabs and as a booster of military power as the key to national security.
Olmert’s downfall marks the end of the career of one of Israel’s veteran political operatives whose own career began in the early 1970s. He helped end the career of beloved long-time Labor party Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek and used the mayoral perch to launch himself into national political leadership. After joining the Knesset, he became Ariel Sharon’s chief political aide and enforcer. When Sharon wanted to lower the boom on then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, it was Olmert who told the Jerusalem Post that Israel was prepared to assassinate him. A later report by a journalist-confidant of Sharon’s published in Haaretz, claimed that Sharon, and Israeli intelligence, had indeed been responsible for Arafat’s death.
Olmert was known throughout his career as a wily, but pragmatic political survivor willing to compromise his rightist principles for either his own advancement or achieving political goals. His supporters and critics, for example, could never tell whether his recent peace initiatives toward Syria and the Palestinians were the product of principle or an attempt to save his prime ministership. For this reason, he leaves a mixed legacy of a man who seemed to have some vision of compromise with Israel’s enemies, but who allowed his penchant for the good life to interfere with, and ultimately topple him.
14 thoughts on “Olmert Resigns – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Please provide the link to where anyone said that Sharon was responsible for Arafat’s death… considering that his French doctor’s all but spelled out he died of AIDS.
I’m not interested in “all but.” I’d like to see the proof that he did. Not rumor, but proof. As for the confirmation that Sharon orchestrated Arafat’s death, you’ll have to do some research yrself I’m afraid. I wrote a post about this which linked to the Haaretz story. It’s here & you can find it if you spend 2-3 minutes looking.
Read the post and comments sectioni re Uri Dan…
Instead of positing your typical childish retort which would be something along the lines – “show me the proof!” or else I don’t believe or even countenance it…
I’ll address it –
a) Sharon would have liked nothing more than to posit a thought in Arafat’s head that he had poisoned him….
b) Still does not explain why he spent years aparat from his wife in Paris…
c) “the so-called rumor” that he was gay was created by the Israelis?? really??? considering the rumors been around for decades and have heard as much from Arabs that he is gay…. Again, this is on heresay of sources… so “there is no proof” (nor would I want to see this proof) but the “rumor” of a “conversation” seems to meet your proof standard that Sharon poisoned him.
d) then you state it would be great to destroy his credibility in Isreal or the West to posit he’s gay… again you like to turn the truth upside down on it’s head…
The place where Arafat would be most destroyed as a person for being gay (let alone the other stories of pedophilia) is in the Arab world!! And yet you throw out that this is to destroy him in Israel.. as if his rep could get much worse in Israeli opinion….. and the place where there are gay pride parades in Tel Aviv… hilarious…
No confidant of Sharon’s ever claimed that Sharon was responsible for his death. This is the quote Silverstein is referring to from Ha’aretz: “This is what Dan wrote then in Maariv that in the history books prime minister Ariel Sharon will be remembered as the man who eliminated Yasser Arafat without killing him. Let every reader figure it out for himself.” This is far from a claim, at best it’s a hint. And since Ha’aretz allows every reader to figure it out for himself, this reader thinks it says that “Sharon eliminated Arafat without killing him” (duh) or that Sharon made Arafat irrelevant, by holing him up in the muqata’a for example.
On the other hand, here is a link to an interview from al-jazeera shown on Israel’s channel 10 with Arafat’s personal doctor confirming that Arafat had HIV.
I have no idea what you’re talking about. No one said anything about the rumor being created by the Israelis but why would it be strange for the Shin Bet to spread such a rumor in order to discredit Arafat in the eyes of his Arab constituents who look highly disfavorably on homosexuality?
Again, sloppy. There was an ACTUAL conversation which Uri Dan relates & he confirms that, knowing Sharon as well as he did, that Sharon was claiming that he was responsible for Arafat’s death. You can call it whatever you want. But that’s credible evidence for me. It’s not incontrovertible proof. But it’s only a hair’s breath away from that.
Are you hallucinating? I never said any such thing. Are you confusing this site with some other site you’ve been visiting?? If not, you better knock off those meds because you’re making up entire comment threads that don’t exist as far as I can tell.
You have unfortunately left out Uri Dromi’s commentary on the passage from Uri Dan. Since both of them have considerably more experience & knowledge on this subject than Amir, let’s hear what Uri Dromi says as well:
I couldn’t find anything in the quote you provided which even comes close to proving Sharon had Arafat assasinated, and I read it in the original Hebrew as well. I even looked for the original article in Maariv and couldn’t find it even though all of Dan’s articles are online. The closest I could find was an article by Uri Avnery two weeks before the Haaretz article where Avnery makes the following claim (my translation): When Uri Dan asked Sharon if he had Arafat killed Sharon answered “We shouldn’t talk about that”. Dan understood that to mean yes.
Wow, hardly proof. Conveniently Avnery (hardly an unbiased source when it comes to Sharon and Arafat) came out with this after Uri Dan was dead and Ariel Sharon was comatose.
Once again, I think Uri Dan has a much more credible vantage pt. from which to judge these things than you. He not only knew Sharon, he wrote a book about him in which he interviewed him, & he was personally present when Sharon made the comment. Were you?
And why would you doubt that Sharon or the Shin Bet would “arrange” for Arafat’s death? Haven’t they done similar things countless times before w. other Palestinian “enemies?” All of a sudden you’re developing moral compunctions about Israel eliminating its enemies? Really, I didn’t know you had it in you, but good for you if it’s true.
I don’t think that Sharon ordered Arafat killed because I think that would be too risky if uncovered and Arafat was effectively neutralized anyway. I have seen zero evidence that he ordered it. I didn’t read first hand what Uri Dan wrote and if Avnery is to be trusted as a source even he says that Sharon didn’t divulge to Uri Dan that peice of infomation. On the other hand, you have Arafat’s personal doctor confirming that he was HIV positive (a tad inconveinient don’t you think?).
The stories about Arafat being a homosexual have been around for decades. An officer in Romanian intelligence during the time of Ceacescu whose name IIRC is Ion Pacepa wrote a book many years ago (pre-Oslo) telling about Arafat conducting sado-masochistic homosexual orgies on his visits to Romania.
I interpreted Sharon’s claim that he “eliminated” Arafat by meaning he locked him up in his headquarters in Ramallah. In any event Sharon himself had at least indirect friendly contacts with Arafat through Martin Shlaff who is a businessman who was a business partner of Arafat in the Jericho casino among other things and the “Cyril Kern Affair” which Sharon was investigated for involved Shlaff funnelling money illegally through Kern to Sharon. After all, Sharon became “enlightened” to the justice of the Palestinian cause before he left the scene so it would not surprise me at all that people of their characters would end up being friends on some level. I certainly don’t believe Sharon poisoned Arafat, there was no reason to.
Thanks for this analysis and summary, Richard — cogent and thoughtful, as always.
I actually got to meet Olmert in 1997, when he was mayor of Jerusalem, with a group of human rights activists, and although at that time he was mostly fighting off criticism resulting from his efforts to follow Teddy Kolek from the right, he was forthright and direct about trying to make all of us understand and think about the facts, rather than just hurling arguments we’d heard from others. An interesting approach and perspective to his current problems.
My main concern with all of this is the specter of Netanyahu. The last time he surfaced at this level in the wake of a national crisis to try to benefit personally was post-disengagement (when he sought to challenge Sharon). I wrote a post on semitism.net about that nearly 3 years ago. As you indicate in your post, I think the last line from that post is as true as ever:
“If Netanyahu wins, Israel and the Palestinians will get a future of nothing.”
Don’t you just luvvv the selective righteous sarcasm and condescension… you just get left with the lasting impression that the primary goal is to condescend and beat one’s chest with his own moral superiority…
IIt is notable that he never addressed the fact Arafat’s doctor said as much on Al Jazeera… (forgot about that) or the Ion Mahai Pacepa reports of Arafat homosexuality and pedophilia.
It is further notable that he demanded substantive standard of proof of Arafat’s homosexuality while claiming/hinting that Sharon had caused his death on anything but substantive “proof”….
Why are you and so many “progressives” afraid of Netanyahu? The policy of the Likud is EXACTLY that of Kadima and Labor….creation of Palestinian state, Israeli withdrawal. Bibi is recruiting prominent Leftists like Uzi Dayan to join the Likud. Netanyahu supported destroying Gush Katif, until one week before it was implemented , because as a political opportunist, and realizing like everyone else that it would be a disaster, he quit the goverment in a totally cynical move.
I’m not sure “afraid” is the right term. More correct to say we progressives know what lies in store w. a Netanyahu government. Continued punishment of the social underclass, continued bellicosity toward Israel’s neighbors, no negotiations with anyone (including Syria & the Palestinians). And in general a brutal, thuggish government.
I don’t know much about Uzi Dayan but for you to call anyone considering joining Likud a “leftist” tells us a lot more about yr ideological blinders than it does about Uzi Dayan’s true political views. The idea of a true progressive joining Likud is so far-fetched as to be amusing.