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Jewish World Review
June 18, 2008
/ 15 Sivan 5768
Time To Put Out The Cigar, Ehud
Richard Z. Chesnoff
I've never much liked Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - at least not personally. I had my own private run ins with his notorious arrogance back in the 1970s, when he was a young Knesset member and offered me some bad legal advice.
Still,in 2006, when Olmert slipped into the Israeli prime minister's chair after Ariel Sharon tragically suffered two massive strokes, I had measured hopes for Olmert's success.
Arrogant or not, here was someone who seemed to represent a new generation of Israeli leader, a self-avowed super nationalist who gave signs of morphing into something of a pragmatic peace maker - someone who was calling on Israelis to face harsh demographic realities, to relinquish Gaza and most of the West Bank, find a way to live with a Palestinian state and move on with the building of the Jewish one. On top of that, Olmert vowed to fulfill Sharon's dream of extricating Israel from the traditional mud-heap of party politics by establishing a new corpus politicus that transcended orthodox ideological lines.
Well, it's clear Olmert has proven no visionary - and hardly the national leader that beleagured Israel needs. The withdrawal from Gaza that he engineered has opened that benighted strip of land to Hamas terrorist rule and exposed Israel's southern towns to bloody bombardments. Worse yet, this least military of all Israel's prime ministers badly mishandled the 2006 Lebanese war with Hezbollah. Ever the victim of his own insufferable arrogance, Olmert all but ignored the advice of his military experts and ended up strengthening Iranian backed Hezbollah's political position in Lebanon - not destroying it.
Now, over the objections of the majority of his countrymen, he is trying to initiate negotiations with Syria, talks that could easily lead to Israel ceding control of the strategic Golan Heights in exchange for a few promises form the untrustworthy President of Syria - a move that may have more to do with deflecting attention from legal woes Olmert currently faces than it does with prospects for a meaningful Mideast peace.
Olmert's no newcomer to corruption charges. For years, they've buzzed around him like bees in a flowering orange grove - many of them dating back to his days as Jerusalem's mayor.Critics have charged he took illegal campaign contributions, he took a bribe in the form of the purchase of a heavily discounted home for his family, he sold favors.
The politically nimble Omert wheeled and dealed his way out of all of them - there was just never enough proof.
But now the corruption charges have come to a new head. New talk of bribes, envelopes of cash to indulge an increasingly gauche taste for luxury hotel suites, first class airline seats and expensive cigars.
Worse yet, his political judgement has gone loudly askew. Who in their right mind would accept promises from Syrian dictator Bashar Assad - the slinkiest, sleaziest neighbor Israel has and one of Iran's closest allies?
So it's really time for Ehud Olmert to pack and go home. His political enemies are chaffing to replace him - his own Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, his Likud rival Benjamin Netanyahu, Labor leader Ehud Barak. None of them are great shakes. And, for the moment, Olmert gives no sign of resigning. He's even announced plans to come to Washington this week to address the Israeli lobby group, AIPAC.
But the pressures are mounting and maybe Olmert will just have to step down. If so, perhaps next time he sits in the King David Hotel puffing on a fat cigar while seated near the no-smoking sign, someone will tell him to stop. Whether he does or not, is another question.
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The Arrogance of the French
This book will open your eyes!
Why do the French hate America? Richard Chesnoff has figured it out and informs us with entertaining clarity.
France sucks, but this book doesn't.
Michael Barone, Co-author, The Almanac of American Politics
Americans-and the French-will learn a lot from this book.
Clifford D. May, President, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
Richard Z. Chesnoff insightfully-and entertainingly-explores America's most dysfunctional relationship with America's least reliable ally.
Sales help fund JWR.
JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a contributing correspondent at US News & World Report, a columnist at the NY Daily News and a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Demoracies. A two-time winner of the Overseas Press Club Award and a recipient of the National Press Club Award, he was formerly executive editor of Newsweek International. His latest book, is "The Arrogance of the French: Why They Can't Stand Us & Why The Feeling Is Mutual". (Click on cover above to purchase. Sales help fund JWR. )
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© 2008, Richard Z. Chesnoff