by Dror Eydar
For years now, Channel 2's Friday night news panel "Ulpan Shishi" (Friday studio) has served as a nature reserve for a dying breed on Israel's political map — a breed that dominates Israel's radio and television stations (as well as Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz). This past Friday, two fascinating representatives of this breed joined the tribe: Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — who crossed political lines and converted his faith in exchange for the questionable honor of speaking at the Saban Forum — and tribe elder Amnon Abramovich, a veteran Channel 2 commentator.
Neither one of them is in favor of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, and neither one of them likes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both of them have a bad habit of conceding important territories in exchange for dubious peace deals. They both think that in the scandal surrounding the forged Harpaz document (which involved a bitter rivalry between then-IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak) the bad guy is Barak, and not the military personnel whose conduct in defiance of elected government officials was unacceptable.
Both of them being strongly affiliated with Yedioth Ahronoth, they also don't like Israel Hayom. Israel Hayom changed the rules of the game on them, you know. Until we came along, the dying breed tribe kept a stranglehold on all of our privates by way of Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon (Noni) Mozes' empire. That is where they marked the true enemies: Settlers, religious Israelis, ultra-Orthodox Israelis, Likud and other such demons – the ones who stood in the way of their efforts to brainwash the public with delusions of false diplomacy. These delusions still exist in full force at the President's Residence, in Yedioth Ahronoth's headlines and on the Channel 2 news.
What did Channel 2's interview with Olmert teach us that we didn't already know? First off, we heard Olmert talk about "foreign money" and "corruption" while wearing a righteous expression – that was entertaining, especially coming from a man who was convicted of breach of trust and was charged in four different corruption cases. Other than that, not much. He preached to the public to vote for Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz (sure, we're all running to vote for him); he voiced support for recent remarks by former Israel Security Agency chief Yuval Diskin against Netanyahu and Barak, published in Yedioth Ahronoth (like he would ever go against Yedioth Ahronoth); he repeated remarks made by President Shimon Peres and Hatnuah Chairwoman Tzipi Livni and other left-wing figures, which boiled down to fear mongering and more fear mongering. All this man, who once led the country, has left to say is this: A forecast of another intifada unless peace talks are resumed (indirectly legitimizing terror), warnings of global isolation and promoting American sanctions against Israel over "the Israeli government's and Netanyahu's provocative, confrontational policy of defiance against the world."
It can drive a person crazy to look at this reckless group that has been stringing us along for 20 years with empty slogans of peace and reconciliation and diplomatic arrangements and other such sweets that earn them international honors but have so far yielded five wars, thousands of dead, countless suicide attacks, tens of thousands of Qassam rockets and an Iranian outpost in Gaza. All this while we seek peace and get nothing but war and the world — how surprising — sides with the Palestinians. Does the world have a choice? Even Olmert and Peres side with the Palestinians and claim that Israel is at fault. The world media can also quote Abramovich's clever quip about how Netanyahu "is pulling one over on the entire Western world." This sums up how the Israeli Left feels about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: We are the problem. Just like with Pharaoh only in reverse: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is righteous, and my people and I are the evil ones.
But Olmert was there, and he offered Abbas more concessions than any previous Israeli leader. He offered far too much: To divide Jerusalem, to place holy sites under international supervision, to withdraw from nearly 100% of territories, to recognize the suffering of the Palestinian people, to partially allow Palestinian right of return, and more. When speaking to Ulpan Shishi on Friday he said that "a lot has come out of [this offer], and it is possible that if [I had offered] just a little bit more, we could have achieved peace."
Here is the truth that was revealed by Wikileaks through Al-Jazeera, and ran in Israel Hayom as part of research conducted by Boaz Kantor: The chief Palestinian peace negotiator at the time, Saeb Erekat, told his team to reply to Olmert's offer in one of three possible ways: Make a "counterproposal" involving a map that "would be shown but not given"; give "an ambiguous answer that doesn't actually answer"; or an "outright no.”
Erekat instructed his team to devise another response that would meet the following conditions: “(a) we are not blamed, (b) negotiations are uninterrupted, and (c) no submission is made that we cannot retract.” Maybe someone should notify Olmert of the Palestinians' real reaction to his offer. While they're at it, someone should tell Shimon I've-known-Abbas-for-30-years Peres that his so-called partner for peace is laughing at all of our expense.
In the interview, Olmert also hinted that the outgoing government unnecessarily spent billions of shekels on the Iranian nuclear issue, or "adventurous delusions that never materialize," as he put it. This from a man who went to war "hastily and without thoroughly investigating the battleground… without a well-formulated plan and without a clear strategic outline…without ensuring that the army was prepared… all these led to a massive failure having to do with exercising judgment, responsibility and caution" (taken from the Winograd report, issued by the committee that investigated the Second Lebanon War).
Olmert concluded the interview by calling for the diplomatic process to become a priority, saying "I hope very much that the Israeli public will display the necessary responsibility and act accordingly." Exactly. Let's hope that this election will leave the Oslo gang and its delusional supporters where they belong: in History's dustbin.
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