Could there be an Israeli politician more cynical than Ehud Olmert?
Yesterday he accused PM Netanyahu of alienating President Obama — as if Obama could dislike him more — by ‘intervening’ in the US election:
“Following what Netanyahu did in the last few months, the question arises of whether or not our prime minister has a friend in the White House,” Olmert said in a meeting with New York Jewish leaders.
Olmert said that while the Israeli head of state was allowed to have a personal preference for one candidate over another, it would be “better, obviously, if he kept it to himself.”
“What took place this time was a breaking of all the rules, when our prime minister intervened in the US elections in the name of an American billionaire with a clear interest in the vote,” Olmert continued. “The very same billionaire used Israel’s prime minister to advance a nominee of his own for president.”
Olmert’s words were a clear reference to Jewish-American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who according to reports donated some $100 million to Romney’s failed campaign. Adelson also owns the Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom, which is largely perceived as a stalwart backer of Netanyahu.
Olmert didn’t explain how he knows that Adelson was acting on Netanyahu’s instructions. He seems to think that it is impossible for a Jewish billionaire to prefer one or another candidate for US president or Israeli PM without engaging in a conspiracy. His remarks, intended to damage Netanyahu with the Israeli public, can only damage his relationship with Obama as well.
Olmert, who was probably the worst Prime Minister in Israel’s history, plans to return to politics after a miraculous escape, with his skin mostly intact, from a trial on several serious corruption charges. The Israeli state prosecutor’s office has filed an appeal of his acquittals on the major charges and an especially light sentence he received for one minor offense.
Olmert said that he would run only if Obama won the US election — which makes one wonder if he expects ‘intervention’ in the opposite direction, which apparently he considers appropriate! He is expected to join with Tzipi Livni and other outspoken enemies of PM Netanyahu, take over the moribund Kadima party, and run against him in upcoming elections on an anyone-but-Bibi platform.
Livni was Olmert’s partner in the government which so badly bungled the 2006 Second Lebanon War, leading to the unnecessary deaths of dozens of soldiers and a disadvantageous cease-fire which left Hizballah in a position to rebuild and rearm (which it has done with a vengeance).
Both Livni and Olmert are preferred to PM Netanyahu by the Obama Administration, because of their perceived willingness to withdraw from the territories in a deal with the Palestinian Authority. Olmert claims to have come close to such a deal in 2008, which thankfully fell through when he left office under a cloud of accusations of corruption.
He has recently criticized the PM for his tough position on the Iranian nuclear project and echoed Obama’s position that sanctions and diplomacy must be given more time to work. I’m sure this has endeared him even further to the president.
Olmert is also known for making one of the most embarrassing speeches in oratorical history in 2005, prompting me to call him “the anti-Churchill:”
We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors, and I believe that this is not impossible… That it is within reach if we will be smart, if we will dare, if we will be prepared to take the risks, and if we will be able to convince our Palestinian partners to be able to do the same.
As I noted at the time, an unprecedented combination of defeatist rhetoric, bad politics, and fundamentally wrong analysis! But nobody ever accused Olmert of lacking arrogance or chutzpah, and he seems to think that with everyone to the left of Bibi and President Obama on his side, he can retake the Prime Minister’s chair.