Olmert Raises Eyebrows, Passions in New York

May 1, 2012 9:00 am 1 comment

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks at Sunday's Jerusalem Post Conference in New York. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

NEW YORK—Ehud Olmert or Neville Chamberlain?

The former Israeli prime minister told the crowd at Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Conference in New York City that he didn’t “want to walk into a minefield,” but that didn’t stop one audience member from comparing him to the British prime minister known for the infamous signing of the 1938 Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler.

With his arms flailing more violently as the boos intensified throughout his speech, Olmert’s provocative remarks included a contention that Israel shouldn’t need to gain recognition as a Jewish state from the Palestinian state during peace negotiations.

Olmert deemed it too easy to “throw the ball to the other side” by demanding such recognition, calling that an excuse for the failure of the peace process. He said that Israel needs to see the process “with the other side” and compromise, adding that, “This is certainly what doesn’t happen now.”

“It is the interest of Israel to make peace, and if it is the interest of Israel, we have to be the initiators,” Olmert said.

“We are looking for excuses for why we don’t want to do this or that,” he said.

Perhaps the most vocal critic of Olmert in the audience, Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) activist Dr. Alan Mazurek, interrupted him by yelling “go home” in Hebrew. Olmert noticed, and responded, “I went home. I just wonder whether those who replaced me are making the right decisions.”

Mazurek told JointMedia News Service, “I couldn’t contain myself, and I had to speak up.”

“I thought that one can have differences of opinion about the way one should handle the problems that Israel faces, but one can’t have differences of opinion about the facts,” Mazurek said.

Olmert said Israel should not engage in a peace process that includes “lip service” and the repetition of “empty slogans,” a statement representing one of what Mazurek called Olmert’s “thinly-veiled attacks” on Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

The former prime minister also posed the question of whether having a neighborhood such as Abu Dis in Jerusalem is “worth the energy” of Jews who fight for it, asking “Is it that part of Jerusalem that Jews were praying for, for 2,000 years?”

Israeli Minister of Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan speaks at Sunday Jerusalem Post Conference, where he responded to former prime minister Ehud Olmert's remarks. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Currently, Abu Dis is under joint Israeli-Palestinian control, meaning that Olmert’s statement “clearly called for the division of Jerusalem,” according to Mazurek.

“This is part of Jerusalem,” Mazurek said. “If you’re going to negotiate, you don’t negotiate in advance, you negotiate at negotiations. You don’t give up unilaterally part of the holy city of Jerusalem.”

On Iran, Olmert laid out a three-part question: “What needs to be done? Who should do it? When should it be done?” He said the Iranian nuclear threat is primarily the responsibility of the international community—led by the U.S., not Israel.

Israel’s conversations with the U.S. and the international community on Iran should be conducted with “quieter tones,” Olmert said, consisting of sharing concerns privately rather than being seen as “giving orders” to a “powerful friend” like America. “A nation has the right to determine what it should do to defend itself,” he said, but can’t act irrespective of the policies of other countries.

There is enough time to try “different avenues of pressure” on Iran without a direct military confrontation, Olmert said, echoing recent statements by U.S. President Barack Obama. On the topic of Obama, Olmert added that Israel should respect him and “not fight with him.”

Israeli Minister of Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan, whose speech followed Olmert’s, countered that Israel “must always be masters of our own destiny” and that the only way to stop Iran is to make the country believe that the “military option is on the table, and we aren’t just talking.”

While Olmert said Israel should “avoid unnecessary struggles, and try to focus on the heart of the matter” with the Palestinians, Erdan said the heart of the matter is specifically what Olmert de-emphasized.

“The conflict with the Palestinians won’t be solved only with a pencil line drawn on a map,” Erdan said. “Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel is the heart of the conflict.” Responding to Olmert’s statement against using “slogans,” Erdan said, “We must repeat slogans again and again and again, even if the international community doesn’t hear our truths.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon also gave his take on the peace process during remarks to the audience, saying that Israel has mistakenly allowed the Palestinian narrative to garner too much attention over the years.

“Israel was not established 64 years ago,” Ayalon said. “It was established 4,000 years ago.” Israeli governments, both on the left and the right, have been lax in pointing that out, he said.

For peace to materialize, Israel needs to see the Palestinian Authority teach peace and recognition, but now all the PA teaches is “that all the land is theirs, that we are crusaders,” Ayalon said.

When it comes to Iran, there is “no half-pregnancy,” Ayalon said, meaning the regime should not be allowed to enrich any uranium whatsoever.

Asked during a panel discussion later on Sunday about what lessons he learned after Mahmoud Abbas rejected his offer of virtually all of the West Bank and part of Jerusalem in 2008, Olmert said he is “not judging Abu Mazen” and will not specifically blame either Israel or the Palestinians for the failure of the peace process. Israeli ministers, Olmert added, discouraged Abbas from accepting its peace plan.

Columnist Isi Leibler, former head of the Australian Jewish community, said during a different panel discussion that it was unfortunate to see Olmert use “everything in the book” to be divisive at the conference and criticize the Israeli government to the extent that he did.

“There’s a lot we have to learn about a certain amount of restraint and dignity,” Leibler said.

1 Comment

  • Mort Scharfman

    Does a Jew live today other than Olmert, who doesn’t understand that by not recognizing Israel as a Jewish
    State a Palestinian one could justify , however speciously, a state of war(cold politically,hot terroristically) with Israel on the same old
    pretext that it is merely reclaiming its own homeland from an illigitimate usurper?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the moral of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry has [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.