Yesterday I wrote that the process of removing Olmert from the government is as “slow as molasses.” But what I’m seeing now might — just might, no guarantees — push things ahead more quickly. There is heat being generated:
Quite simply, there are people in the government who are weary of the thought of having him at the helm, and people in his own Kadima party who are getting worried about the liability he represents. A prime minister, making major decisions, who is about to be indicted? Not a great scene.
Members of the opposition in the Knesset called a special session today to address what they called the “illegitimate conduct of government regarding political affairs.”
MK Aryeh Eldad (NU/NRP) has always been outspoken and direct, and today was no exception. What he said was:
“How do we know what is behind this man’s decisions? Maybe tomorrow, Olmert will want to give away land to the Arab enemy…Maybe someone paid him to change his mind and give away land that belongs to my people, to my heritage. A man suspected of receiving bribes cannot be Israel’s prime minister since we don’t know what motivates him.”
And I salute him for this honesty. He is not saying that Olmert has been bribed already to negotiate with the PA, but that Olmert cannot be trusted.
When one considers the notion of “bribes” broadly, it becomes even more disconcerting. For there can be financial gain via investments that motivates decisions as well — even though this has nothing to do with what is good for the nation.
Within Kadima there are individuals decidedly not happy with the very convoluted scenario I described yesterday in which Olmert would head a transitional government even if he had been indicted. In some quarters there is a push to have him really step down so that the new head of Kadima — who will be elected next week — can head that transitional government.
Others are declaring with confidence that the winner of the primary (most likely Livni) will be able to form a new coalition so quickly that this would not be an issue.
So… for now we’ll keep waiting and seeing.
Olmert had been scheduled to visit Russia next week, where he was going to be lobbying against arms for Syria, but that trip has been cancelled because of his tenuous position.
Similarly, there is speculation that there will not be any more indirect negotiations with Syria, either. Which, in my book, would be the best thing that could happen. The next round was due to take place on the 18th.
There are Israeli officials lamenting that Assad may feel he already got what he wanted — an end to international isolation — and that he didn’t “need” Israel any longer.
When French president Nicholas Sarkozy came to Syria last week, and then was joined by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, some high level Israelis were lamenting that these people were giving Assad too much recognition. I found this highly ironic, because it was the fools in Israel who broke Syria’s isolation and started the process. Who were they to criticize?
Assad had been making a bid for US involvement in direct talks with Israel — he had said that the talks would only work with US participation. But the US is none too keen to be involved here. One guess is that this is because it would tie Olmert’s successor into this prematurely. But the fact is that the American administration has shown no desire to promote this in any event.
Gen. James Jones, the US security advisor on the Israeli-Palestinian talks, is due here tomorrow in an attempt to define Israel’s vital security needs that would have to be addressed in any Israeli-PA agreement.
As a last ditch effort, it seems, the Americans are hoping to draft a “security document” — a document defining Israel’s security needs that would be acceptable to Israel and the US — even if a diplomatic agreement isn’t reached. Israel, however, isn’t keen on putting anything in writing in this regard without that diplomatic progress.
What infuriates me considerably is the audacity of suggesting that the US has to pass on — or voice acceptance of — our defined security needs. No one, but no one, should sign off on this except Israeli security and military experts. We tell them what we insist upon. And if the rest of the world doesn’t like it, tough. The US thinks it has a say in whether we need certain areas of Judea and Samaria to be secure? Or whether it’s safe for our citizens if we allow PA security personnel carrying guns to locate in such and such a region?
It was Secretary of State Rice who coerced Israel into leaving the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, when we were supposed to have stayed there. She did this in spite of Israeli security objections (and were those objections correct!) because her priority was moving a process, not protecting Israel.
Interesting: Like clockwork, every so often there is a bid to release Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti. Sometimes this is from the Palestinians, but sometimes it comes from our side. There are Israelis convinced that if Barghouti were released he would have such charisma, such impact on the street, that he could move forward a peace agreement and help cool the tensions with Hamas.
Foolish, foolish thinking in any event, I believe. For if the “best” we can find as PA leader is a convicted terrorist, these are not really people we want to deal with. Never mind that because of the Israeli lives he has taken, he should never be free again.
Now the Israel Radio Arab affairs correspondent has reported on a study by our security forces that indicates that Barghouti’s popularity in the street has been severely over-rated. In fact, the last time there were Legislative Council elections, no one who had connections with Barghouti won.
Good. Can we stop talking about letting him go now?
The taskforce, headed by Haim Ramon, charged with coming up with the names of 450 Hamas prisoners we would be willing to exchange for Shalit, has completed its work. This is a list –with new guidelines on who can be released — that Israel decided to submit to Hamas, with initiative coming from our side. This is not in response to specific Hamas demands.
But Hamas is now asking for 1,500 prisoners, so this is not going to play.
And there’s more that is deeply disturbing:
Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who has been acting as go-between on negotiations, has been unable to get those negotiations started again. Hamas is playing hardball. And so, according to Haaretz, Suleiman told Yossi Beilin in meetings in Cairo on Sunday that he’s working on a new approach. This would include extending the “ceasefire” and securing guarantees from Israel that we would not harm Hamas leaders.
This is what follows from what has been our foolish acquiescence to terrorist demands We have been acting too hungry and too eager.
I much prefer the suggestion of some defense officials — including Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin — that we increase pressure on Hamas instead, even if it means limited military action against Hamas that threatens the “ceasefire.” Our message then changes from “Oh, please, tell us what else we have to do for you to make you happy?” to “Let us tell you what we’ve going to do to you if you don’t act as we want you to.”
Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s first female ambassador to the UN, submitted her credentials Monday to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. She was at one time a professor of law at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.