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...

  • Featured Sports World Palestinian Soccer League Withdraws Bid to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Palestinian Soccer League Withdraws Bid to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    The head of Israel’s soccer association called on his Palestinian counterpart to “join forces,” as the Palestinian Football Association withdrew its bid on Friday to have Israel suspended from FIFA. “Let’s leave it to the politicians to do politics,” said Israel Football Association chief Ofer Eini, moments after PFA Chairman Jibril Rajoub announced that his group had withdrawn the proposal. After his remarks, Eini shook hands with the Palestinian soccer chief. Rajoub thanked “those” who convinced him to drop the [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    JNS.org – An organization whose work focuses on the estimated population of 500,000-800,000 Israeli Americans congratulated David Blatt, the Jewish head coach of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Cleveland Cavaliers and a longtime Israel-based coach, for clinching an appearance in the NBA Finals. The Israeli-American Council (IAC), whose stated mission is “to build an active and giving Israeli-American community throughout the United States in order to strengthen the State of Israel, our next generation, and to provide a bridge to [...]

    Read more →
  • Food US & Canada Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Famed ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s will not be introducing a Bacon flavored product to its offerings because the company intends to keep its entire line kosher, Marketing Director Alison Gilbert told AOL’s morning show Rise recently. “It’s kind of funny, a lot of people look for bacon in our ice cream, which is probably not gonna happen because all of our ice cream is kosher,” she said, referring to Jewish dietary restrictions that proscribe the consumption of pig [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli athletes at a world Judo championship in Morocco reportedly faced antisemitic slurs during the competition, news site WorldNetDaily reported on Monday. “We will murder you,” and “you’re not wanted here, go home,” were among the vituperative attacks directed at the Israeli Judo Association team, which was in Morocco last week for the World Masters Judo Tournament. According to Haaretz, each Israeli teammate was met with boos and jeers upon entering a fight. Additionally, no Israeli flags were present at [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.