Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Olmert - Nothing to Lose
Olmert: Nothing to Lose
By Amir Taheri
New York Post | 6/3/2008
If history were to choose a sobriquet for Ehud Olmert, what would it be?
The accidental prime minister!
Two years ago, Olmert moved into the prime ministerial chair because his
boss and mentor, Ariel Sharon, had suffered a stroke. This week or the
week after, Olmert will be gone because most Israelis have had enough of
his troubles with justice over a range of accusations, including bribery
and money laundering.
Olmert may or may not be guilty of the charges, though they have won him
the unofficial title of "Israel's Most Corrupt Politician," and that is
really saying something.
Theoretically, Olmert should have been one of the best prepared of all
those who acceded to Israel's premiership. He had an impressive CV, as
Mayor of Jerusalem, holder of several Cabinet posts, and close aide to
Yitzhak Shamir and Sharon. And yet, after two years as prime minister,
Olmert gives the impression that he doesn't have a clue what the post is
about. Even his admirers cannot cite a single significant contribution
that he might have made on any major issue of domestic or foreign policy.
There are several reasons for Olmert's "do-nothing" style, not all of them
due to his shortcomings.
Israel's peculiar political system, designed to fragment power, obliges
any prime minister to spend at least half of his time holding an uneasy
coalition together. Another 20 percent of the time is wasted on keeping an
eye on friends who are always ready to stab you in the back.
Even then, Olmert could have done better. He didn't, because he lacks the
As a lawyer, he is so used to either-oring issues that he ends up confused
and unable to pick an option.
Olmert is practitioner of what one might call the politics of appearance.
He is more concerned about how things look rather than how they are. The
latest example is his recent, almost childish, eagerness to open a
dialogue with the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Olmert knows that Assad, at war against his own people in Syria, cannot
offer Israel peace. And, yet, he agrees to dance with the Syrian only to
avoid criticism from the " Realpolitik" cabal at home and abroad.
Olmert knows that Khomeinism, having seized control of Iran's immense
resources, and acquired tentacles in Lebanon and Gaza, is the principal
medium-term existential threat to Israel. And yet he has been pushing that
dossier toward the Americans, who have been pushing it back toward him.
Olmert's half-heartedness was demonstrated with catastrophic results
during the summer war against Iran's Hezbollah proxies in Lebanon two
Having assembled a massive force, Olmert didn't know what to do with it.
In that conflict, Hezbollah suffered huge losses, enough to constitute
total defeat in a conventional war. However, Olmert's decision to wave a
big stick but settle for pinpricks enabled Tehran and its proxies to claim
Almost all Israeli prime ministers are known for ideas about ways of
settling the Palestinian issue. Remember the Begin Plan, the Allon Plan,
the Sharon Plan?
There has never been an Olmert Plan.
Even when others have come up with ideas, such as the Arab League's
proposal of 2006 or the revised version of President George W Bush's
"roadmap" as presented at Anapolis last November, Olmert has failed to
mobilize the degree of Israeli commitment and engagement that might have
produced some concrete results. Instead, he has danced around the issues,
asking for "clarifications," and sending conflicting signals in all
Because the Israeli system puts the prime minister at the center of the
nation's political life, it does matter whether the man, or woman, in
charge is dynamic or lethargic.
Olmertism, to coin a phrase, means going through the motions of acting as
prime minister but doing as little as you could get away with.
In a conversation we had in his office in Tel Aviv last year, Shimon
Peres, now President of Israel, argued that, in this era of globalization,
governments were becoming irrelevant. "The future is shaped by
entrepreneurs with fresh ideas, especially the younger ones," he said.
"The most that an intelligent government could do is to let them do it."
In that sense, Olmert has been the ideal prime minister.
He has buried Israel's old socialist ghosts and their claim to plan the
economy and distribute its fruits. He has completed the dismantling of
cumbersome structures designed in the 19th century.
The trouble is that, beyond economics, Israel faces problems like no other
nation-state in the world. It is the only nation publicly threatened with
annihilation by several powers, notably the Islamic Republic in Iran.
Olmertism cannot cope with such challenges and threats. It is a passive,
and, ultimately, self-serving style of politics in a country that would
always need a strong dose of dynamism and idealism simply to survive.
Many Israelis feel that they need a new national strategy that looks
beyond survival. This is why they think it is time to declare an end to
Olmertism. There are many waiting in the queue to succeed Olmert: Foreign
Minister Tzipi Livini, Defence Minister Ehud Barrack, and, of course,
Likud leader Benyamin Netanyahu. They may have very different plans, but
at least they have something to offer.
2. So now how bout we send some Post-Zionist professors there?
3. Viva La Michelle:
4. Form a campus bulletin board near you :
5. Win the War?
By Matthew Continetti
The Weekly Standard | 6/4/2008
Don't look now, but evidence of progress in the war on terror is just
about everywhere. Last week CIA director Michael Hayden noted some U.S.
accomplishments for the Washington Post: "Near strategic defeat of
al-Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.
Significant setbacks for al-Qaeda globally." USA Today: Attacks in Iraq
are "down 70 percent since President Bush ordered a U.S. troop increase,
or 'surge,' early last year."
The New Yorker's Lawrence Wright devoted a long essay to Sayyid Imam
al-Sharif, onetime mentor to Ayman al Zawahiri, who now criticizes his
former protg and Osama bin Laden and suggests they be put on trial. In the
New Republic, Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank told the story of Sheikh
Salman al-Awdah, author of an open letter attacking bin Laden and violent
jihad that has caused shockwaves across the Muslim world. The sheikhs of
Anbar Province in Iraq lead a national, transsectarian movement preparing
for provincial elections by the end of the year. Polling shows a
widespread decline in support among Muslims for suicide bombing and for
bin Laden. Fareed Zakaria observed that the number of Islamist attacks
worldwide has declined precipitously since 2004.
How did this happen? It is partly due to Muslim outrage at al Qaeda's
killing of its coreligionists. It is partly due to Muslim rejection of al
Qaeda's malign interpretation of Islam. For these reasons, Bergen and
Cruickshank wrote that "encoded in the DNA of apocalyptic jihadist groups
like Al Qaeda are the seeds of their own long-term destruction."
True. But such seeds must be sown, watered, and tended. Read the authors
mentioned above, and you would think that al Qaeda's troubles sprung up
overnight. They did not. Its troubles cannot be separated from U.S.
counterterrorism policy. From President Bush's policy.
After 9/11, the president mobilized all forms of American power against
bin Laden and his global jihadist movement. The constant pressure--cutting
off the movement's funding, bringing down the Taliban regime in
Afghanistan, hunting down jihadist affiliates in the Philippines and the
Horn of Africa, spying on the terrorists' global communications--put the
enemy on the defensive for the first time.
Then the president denied the jihadists an ally by removing Saddam Hussein
from power in Iraq. Bin Laden declared Iraq the "central front" of his war
against the West, and the Sunni insurgency helped Al Qaeda in Iraq gain a
foothold there. Bush changed strategy last year, sending reinforcements to
Iraq and ordering General Petraeus to secure the country's population. The
results have been dramatic. By the time the first reinforcements arrived
in Iraq, the Anbaris were already turning against al Qaeda. The Americans
helped to almost completely eliminate the group in Anbar. Al Qaeda in Iraq
is on the run. It has been denied its strategic goal of establishing an
Islamic State of Iraq. Its black flag flies no more there.
What once seemed a war between jihadists and the West is now a war between
jihadists and Muslims who reject terrorism. Bin Laden is close to losing
this fight on his central front. Al Qaeda is no longer the attractive
"strong horse" of bin Laden's December 2001 metaphor. It is that fact,
more than any other, that accounts for his movement's current disarray.
But a global war has many fronts. Progress in one battle is often
accompanied by setbacks in another. Al Qaeda may be on the brink of
defeat, but its leadership maintains a safe haven along Pakistan's
northwest frontier. In Afghanistan, Coalition forces continue to fight al
Qaeda, the Taliban, and other agents of state failure. Meanwhile, the
Iranian theocracy moves steadily forward in its quest for nuclear weapons.
Iran's proxies in Iraq, Gaza, and Lebanon commit murder in the pursuit of
illiberal ends. A disturbing number of European Muslims are sympathetic to
the jihadists and are a potential source of fresh recruits. And a
precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would erase all of the progress that has
been made in the last year and a half. A precipitous withdrawal would
provide aid and comfort to al Qaeda.
The left's analysis of jihadism has been proved incorrect at every turn.
It argued military power would be ineffective against the terrorists.
Wrong. It argued that intervention in Iraq would energize bin Laden's
movement. That movement is in shambles. The left argued Iraq was a lost
cause. It isn't. The left argues that a "war on terrorism" is futile, that
defeat is inevitable, because terrorism is a "tactic," not an enemy.
Nonsense. President Bush has demonstrated through perseverance and (more
often than not) sound policy that the war on terror can be won. And right
now we're winning it.
5. The evil Haim Bereshit:
6. Haifa U's Anti-Israel Cult: