Why I Don’t Criticize Ehud Olmert
CN Publications Editorial, August 3, 2008
By Israel Zwick, Editor
Ever since Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced his impending resignation last week, there have been intense attacks against him in the Israeli press from both the left and the right. Essentially, the commentators and analysts are saying, “good riddance, can’t wait to see you go, leave now, don’t wait, you’re the worst that we’ve ever had.” Our readers may have noticed that we have not published any articles attacking Ehud Olmert personally or his government policies. Some are asking why this is so since Israel is now in such a precarious situation with its surrounding enemies. Perhaps a note of explanation is due.
First, most of the criticism in our articles and editorials have been reserved for the “sonei yisroel,” those that want to dismantle the Jewish state and leave the Jews wandering around the world again without their own sovereign state. There are so many of those in the UN, EU, USA, and even in Israel, that most of our efforts have been involved with refuting their lies, distortions, and biases. That leaves little time or effort to criticize those who have been entrusted with the task of defending and securing the Jewish state. Yet, there are still reasons for commending Olmert, instead of condemning him. He’s entitled to at least some approbation instead of opprobrium.
Ever since our children started to study and live in Israel in 1995, my wife and I have been traveling to Israel at least once per year, and sometimes twice per year, as we did this year. There are several principles, which guide our travels around Israel. First we only travel where the blue and white flag is flying and our Jewish soldiers and policemen are patrolling. Out of principle, we don’t travel anywhere that flies a Palestinian or Arab flag. That doesn’t mean we won’t go there, we have been to Palestinian areas when there was a reason to go, but we generally prefer not to. We also haven’t traveled to Sinai, Taba, or the “selah haadom” in Petra, Jordan, for the same reason that I won’t travel to Poland where my parents’ families were destroyed. I’m not interested in supporting the “sonei yisroel.” So I’m grateful to the Olmert government for not giving away one additional centimeter of Jewish land to Arab control. I can still go to Hebron, Bethlehem, eastern Jerusalem, Judea, and see the familiar “cachol v’levan” waving in the clear blue sky. True, there is talk of relinquishing these areas, but so far it’s just talk.
Second, when we travel around Israel, we would like to feel somewhat secure. We would like to travel in a bus, sit in a café, or walk the streets without worrying about getting bombed, shot, or stabbed. There is always some concern, but the security situation is much better than it used to be. So I am grateful to the Olmert government that I can sit in a café in Ben-Yehuda, shop at Machane Yehuda, and ride the buses in relative safety. The IDF, police forces, and private security guards seem to have made progress in keeping the murderous terrorists away from the population.
Third, when we travel around Israel, we like to take pride in the growth, prosperity, and vitality of the Jewish state. We were in Israel during Passover 2003 when our grandson was born. It was the height of last intifada. Instead of the hotels, streets, and shops being filled with Jewish tourists, they were empty. Lights were out in the hotels, cafes on Ben-Yehuda and the beaches of Tel-Aviv were empty, and construction jobs were halted. Shop owners in the Old City went out of their stores to pull us in to buy something for a few shekels, they were so desperate. It was a tragedy that brought tears to our eyes. Today, when I walk around Jerusalem, there are construction projects all over, non-Jewish tourist groups are seen at all hours of the day, the cafes of Ben-Yehuda are filled, the new upscale Mamilla shopping mall has opened right outside the Old City, and the reconstruction of the Hurva synagogue is nearing completion. So I am grateful to the Olmert government, for bringing, growth, prosperity, and pride back to the Jewish people.
Fourth, when I read the international press, I am seeing fewer articles about the “poor, oppressed Palestinians who are suffering from the brutal Israeli occupation.” There will always be these articles but they have decreased in the major international media such as BBC, CNN, CBS, and even the New York Times. Perhaps the foreign press is beginning to see that the Hamas and PA governments are not composed of nice, sweet, gentle people who just want a little microstate of 6000 sq. km to call their own. So I am grateful to the Olmert government for improving Israel’s image in the foreign press.
Yes, there have been numerous problems with the Olmert government. Most Israelis believe that the Second Lebanon War was a disaster for Israel, but one Israeli general remarked that, “Hizbullah claims to have won the war but they don’t seem to be too eager to have another victory like that.” Peace and prosperity have returned to the north, rockets are no longer falling on Sderot, and there is reduced pressure to make more concessions to the Arabs. Though it seems that the pot may boil over any minute from the threats posed by Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas, the temperature has been reduced and the pot is just simmering. It appears that conflict management rather than peace will be the way of life for the State of Israel for many years to come.
That doesn’t mean that the Olmert government deserves accolades. I have also been disappointed with the abandonment of Zionist ideals, the capitulation to international demands, the ongoing negotiations with terrorists and murderers, and the criminal allegations against Olmert. But I don’t have access to the military intelligence that Olmert has nor do I have his intimate, intense knowledge of the land and it’s people. Lacking this information, I don’t feel that I have the right to condemn him for his policies and actions. The courts, investigative commissions, and voters will have to determine Olmert’s rightful place in Israeli history. Until then, I prefer to be “makir tov” and extend my gratitude to Olmert for his many years of devoted service to the people and State of Israel. May the coming years bring him internal peace, good health, and good fortune.