Thursday, May 29, 2008

He's Not Doing Us Any Favors

It should be painfully obvious to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel that his attempt to shift the country's attention from his legal woes to talks with the Syrians has been, while not a complete failure, certainly an abject one. A dishonest man negotiating on behalf of a democratic country with a dishonest, dictatorial regime is not a recipe for peace, but disaster - at least, for the democracy. It is the height of selfishness to drag a country into negotiations with a country that sponsors terrorist activities against you, just because the media's been scrutinizing the legality of your associations and donors as a politician.

I'm not on principle opposed to an eventual peace accord between Jerusalem and Damascus; I simply, reasonably, commonsensically question the ability of Israel to gain an honest peace with Syria, by which I mean a peace under which the Syrians actually end their official support for Hizballah and Hamas, instead of just agreeing to do so without carrying out the terms of the agreement.

And since it is still the case that any non-diplomat attempting to enter Syria is
immediately deported if any evidence is found, on his or her person, that he or she has visited Israel, I won't believe the Syrians are earnestly pursuing peace between their Arab Republic and the Jewish state until such discriminatory policies are abandoned...which, given the close relationship between Iran and Syria, and Hizballah and Syria, and Hizballah and Iran, isn't likely to happen any time soon. Does Israel deserve peace from Syria? Absolutely. But does Syria deserve peace with Israel?

This isn't mere Diasporic bluster or frustration on my part; I feel somewhat responsible for current events. As both my conscience and my good friend Avram have frequently reminded me, it was in Israel's March 2006 elections, at my polling place in Jerusalem, that I voted for Kadima and Olmert. What the hell was I doing? Why, making a mistake, of course. (If only most Palestinians, who had voted for Hamas in their January 2006 elections, felt the same sense of democratic responsibility that I do.)

There was a word I associated with that party - change - that if left unspoken, seemed in any case in the air. After all, Kadima - formed around Ariel Sharon - had aimed to end the decades-old monopoly on power the Labor and Likud parties had more or less shared, and wished to revolutionize (in its own way) relations with the Palestinian Arabs. Change seemed about as possible then with Kadima as many deluded Americans feel it is today with Obama.

Well, I was wrong then...and they are wrong now. You hear that?

Allow me to "yell" it for you:
I was wrong then, and they are wrong now!

The only significant changes were the changing of the guard in Zion from one set of corrupt politicians to another, and a loss of confidence following a disastrous attempt to punish Hizballah and Lebanon over the former's terrorist activities, in a war Hizballah started but which Israel...which Israel did not win. Now, when the pressure is really on, Ehud Olmert - an archetypal, rather than atypical, Israeli politico - is stubbornly clinging to power amidst a crumbled mandate while negotiating with state-sponsors of terrorism.

Ehud Olmert's immediate and future actions will demonstrate whether he cares more about himself or the country. He has the option of humility, resigning in face of the fact that, if nothing else, he is immensely unpopular - to say nothing of the legal accusations against him. Or he could resign, for the benefit of his own party, since
even Labor chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak has stated he would prefer to keep the ruling coalition in the Knesset intact, rather than go to early elections he suspects are on the way.

Or, Prime Minister Olmert, who is as infatuated now with the power and prestige of political office as he was when he served as Jerusalem mayor, could continue his assault on the safety and sensibilities of Israelis until the bitter end - to their, and his own, detriment.

No, this isn't just Diasporic bluster...but even if it were, something very few Israelis in Israel - or their politicians - seem to take into account must still be remembered. As the self-proclaimed, sovereign, militarily-adept national home of the Jewish people, domestic and international political matters affecting the State of Israel tend to reflect negatively or positively (depending on the situation) on Jews around the world, and affect them the same way...whether they are Israeli or not, whether they associate themselves with Israel or not, and whether they like it or not.

This is Ehud Olmert's - and our own - reality, even if he denies it. It is not just for the benefit of Israelis that he must resign and own up to whatever deeds, legal or illegal, he has done. In addition to their political responsibilities at home, Israeli prime ministers have the added burden - acknowledged or not - of moral responsibility toward a millions-strong Jewish Diaspora that, after thousands of years of disenfranchisement, pogroms, discrimination and genocide, looks to modern Israel with a mixture of hope and fear, for themselves and for the future.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert isn't just harming the State of Israel with his selfishness and duplicity; he's injuring the People of Israel as well. This might not bother
him at all...but it bothers me, a Jewish American and an Israeli, a great deal. It is one thing when an ordinary citizen feels a sense of responsibility toward his people, and something completely different when a person entrusted by his people with a position of power and influence doesn't.

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