Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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 Book Reviews Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    It is cocktail hour on an April afternoon in 2004. The sun is hot on Amsterdam’s canals, and I am sitting at Café den Leeuw on the Herengracht with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is still a member of the Dutch Parliament, and we talk about Islam. Specifically, we talk about the concept of “moderate Islam,” or what she calls “liberal Islam.” And she has one word for it. “It’s absurd,” she says. “It’s complete nonsense. There is no ‘liberal […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    Everybody knows that cooking varies from country to country. There are Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. We associate different styles of cuisine with different languages. Do we also think of the association of different cuisines with different dialects? We should, because cooking also varies from region to region. Litvaks and Galitsyaners have their own traditions of preparing gefilte fish. Marvin I. Herzog, in his book The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History (Indiana University, Bloomington, and Mouton & Co., The […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Russian-American Jews are some of the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to Jewish discrimination in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dancing, in order to have a chance of getting ahead. “They knew that if they […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    JNS.org – A fairytale ending to Jewish basketball coach David Blatt’s first season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was not meant to be, as the Blatt-led Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night dropped Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, 105-97, to lose the best-of-seven series 4-2. Blatt, who just last year coached Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise to a European basketball championship, failed to finish a second straight hoops season on top. But after the Cavaliers began the NBA […]

    Read more →