Israel Matters

Uri Avnery on Ehud Olmert:
Olmert is a politician, soul and body, a complete opportunist and a smooth speaker, but lacks charisma and has no vision. He is satisfied with the routine mantra of a democratic, Jewish state.

After coming to power through the accident of Sharon's stroke, he tried at first to look as if he was following the same path. Sharon wanted to turn Israel into a strong, compact state by annexing the settlement blocs and leaving the Arab enclaves to a weak "Palestinian state". For this purpose he carried out the Gaza "separation". Olmert promised to do the same in the West Bank, but gave up the idea almost immediately. Throughout his term of office he invented grandiose schemes at a dizzying rate, with each of them doing little more than providing fuel to his spin-machine.

His incompetence as a leader and commander soon revealed itself. Lebanon War II was a disastrous scandal. The media, which had applauded enthusiastically at the beginning of the war, attacked him after the event for its "faulty execution", but ignored the main failure: the very decision to go to war without a clear and realistic aim and without a political and military strategy.

His incompetence as statesman and strategist was equaled by his competence as politician and survival artist. The fact that he held on for an additional two years after such a monumental failure testifies to his political acumen, but also to the degeneration of the Israeli political system.

After the war he was desperately in need of a new horse to ride. He chose the "political process" - negotiations with the Palestinians, and later on also with the Syrians.

This choice is significant: his sensitive political nose smelled that this is now the really popular thing: not Greater Israel, not the settlements, but peace negotiations and "two states for two peoples" - the more so as this was already popular with the US and Europe.

This week, Arab leaders complained that now "the political process will begin again from Square One." That is a complete misunderstanding: the "process" has never left Square One. It was wholly without content, wholly "spin". The "process" has become a substitute for peace, the idea of a "shelf agreement" a substitute for a real peace agreement. There was never any possibility that Olmert would dare to provoke the settlers.

The final summing-up of the Olmert era: not the smallest real step toward peace has been taken. The historic peace initiative of the Arab League has been buried. The secular, peace-seeking Palestinian leadership has been almost destroyed, paving the way for the Hamas takeover in the Gaza strip, and perhaps also in the West Bank. Not one single hut in a settlement was dismantled, and the settlements have been enlarged everywhere.

In one respect, Olmert resembled Sharon: they both loved money almost as much as power (as do Netanyahu and Barak). They both cultivated close relations with billionaires. They both trailed behind them a cloud of corruption wherever they went.

This did not hurt Sharon. He radiated leadership, and the scandals did not really harm him. He was robust enough to carry them on his back. Olmert, being much more fragile, was crushed by them.

In the end, he has fallen: not because of the criminal war, not because of his lack of seriousness in pursuing peace, not because of the appointment of a Minister of Justice whose aim is to destroy the judicial system, but because of cash in envelopes and free trips abroad.

WHEN FUTURE historians look for a way to characterize this chapter in the annals of the state, one word will readily present itself, the one the writer David Grossman applied in a similar context: hollow.

It was a hollow era. A hole in time. A meaningless period, devoid of content (though not for those who paid the price with their lives, destruction and ruins.)

And that is also the suitable title for Olmert himself. A hollow politician, devoid of vision.

Anyone researching the headlines of these two years will find a lot of drama there. A lot of initiatives. A lot of slogans. A lot of spin. A lot of hot air. And the sum of all this: nothing.

A hollow leader of a hollow party pursuing hollow policies in a hollow political system.

complete article: Hollow Time

No comments:

Post a Comment