Author: Yedioth Ahronoth (Israel) Posted August 8, 2012
Hypothetical questions like "What would have happened if …?" generally testify to lack of seriousness. After all, what can we expect to learn from the discussion of imaginary events that have never come to pass? We have enough complex historical events that did take place to ponder upon as it is. That said, I'll make an exception and take the liberty of raising here the following hypothetical question: What would [former Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert have done had he been serving at present as premier?
And [of all other possible figures,] I am asking this question about Olmert because he never evaded tough decisions when he served as prime minister. It was during his tenure in office [from April 2006 to March 2009] that Israel set out on three military operations on three different fronts: In Lebanon [the 2006 Lebanon War], in Gaza [the Gaza war of 2008-2009] and in Syria (according to foreign reports, the airstrike launched against the Syrian nuclear facility in September 2007). Each of these operations could have escalated into an all-out regional war sweeping the entire Middle East.
And I would like to clarify another point: When Olmert served as finance minister and later on, as prime minister, I met him just once. I have never been one of his close associates and I have no way to figure out his innermost thoughts or fathom his troubled mind. The answer to the question raised above is based on publicly available material.
So, what would Ehud Olmert have done had he been serving at present as prime minister? Here's the answer. According to the view held by Olmert (and not only by him), Israel's existential problem is to be found right here, across the [security] fence, rather than over there, on the other side of the [Arabian] desert. Indeed, Olmert believes that Israel is facing an imminent and tangible critical danger, but it is not the danger of Iranian nuclear power hidden away in the caves of the holy city of Qom, but rather the danger of a bi-national state in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Unlike the Iranian ambition to achieve military nuclear capability, which is still far from materializing and which meets with virtually universal opposition, the process of establishment of a bi-national state is nearing its actual conclusion, with tacit international agreement. Like his predecessor, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert realized in his capacity as premier that the developments taking place in the territories were bound to lead to the disappearance of the independent Jewish state and turn it into merely a component of a bi-national state. And it is already within reach, just a touch away.
It is the concern over the future of Israel's independence and the fear of losing it that induced Sharon at the time to withdraw from Gaza [in the framework of the unilateral disengagement plan that he proposed in 2004 and implemented in August 2005] and that motivated Olmert to offer a most generous withdrawal agreement to [Palestinian Authority President] Abu Mazen, the most generous offer the Palestinians had ever received [negotiated between the two prior to and at the Annapolis Middle East Peace Conference in 2007, where Olmert indicated that he would be willing to give parts of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians].Olmert sought to justify his move noting that Abu Mazen was the last authentic representative of the Palestinian national movement that was aspiring to a state of its own. The Palestinian leaders who would succeed him would not care anymore about a small state in the West Bank or a formal recognition by the United Nations. Equal civil rights, that's all that they would ask for in the bi-national state (or the religious bi-national state) [already in the making] and that's what they would be granted: The new state would be populated by two peoples, more or less equal.
The answer to the question 'what would Ehud Olmert have done nowadays?' is therefore the following: Alarmed by the vision of a bi-national state taking shape just around the corner and realizing that it would spell the end of Zionism, Ehud Olmert would have done everything in his power as prime minister to prevent such a state from coming into being.
Unlike Olmert, Benjamin Netanyahu is not particularly bothered by the notion of a bi-national state. As far as he is concerned, nothing else but the present situation in the territories is the long-term solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: A geographically split-up Palestinian autonomy with some features of a [sovereign] state, existing alongside developed Jewish settlements and under Israeli security control. In his speeches advocating the adoption of the "two-state" solution, Netanyahu actually meant to appease the American administration and enlist its support in the campaign against the Iranian nuclear program, and nothing that he has ever said can testify to any real change in his views.
In fact, Netanyahu has never tried to conceal his stance on the issue: He genuinely believes that the Iranian nuclear program is the greatest, most critical and historically momentous single danger facing Israel right now. Consistently, persistently and employing his rhetorical skills, Netanyahu has managed to influence the international public opinion and put the Iranian issue on top of its agenda. I guess that with Ehud Olmert at the helm we would not have reached the situation we are in today. He saw the existential problems of Israel in a quite different way and his solutions were thus totally different.
Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2012/08/what-would-former-israeli-prime.html
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