Prisoner of ‘the fanaticism of reason’
After the failed Camp David summit of 2000, George Will pronounced then prime minister Ehud Barak “perhaps the most calamitous leader any democracy has ever had” for the way he had succeeded in “delegitimizing all previous [Israeli] positions….”
By that standard, our current Ehud is worse.
Prime Minister Olmert too is dead to the importance of national will and belief in the justice of one’s cause in the life of nations. In his “new year” interview with The Jerusalem Post, Olmert uttered nary a word about Israel’s “red lines,” paid passing lip service to Jewish “rights,” and mentioned only illegal Jewish outposts – no Palestinian failures to keep their promises (such as the murder of three Jews by PA security personnel in the last six weeks). Nor did he stress the limits of what he can do without bringing about a civil war more ruinous than any Arab terrorism.
In his most demoralizing comment, Olmert portrayed Israel as desperate for peace: He spoke of the end of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state unless it can realize the vision of two states for two peoples. He thus confirmed Yasser Arafat’s old boast that the “Arab womb” will prevail, and, with his demographic determinism, strengthened the Palestinians in their view that time is on their side.
Olmert is a prisoner of what Lee Harris in Suicide of Reason labels the “fanaticism of reason.” Instead of trying to shake Western leaders out of the fantasy that all societies are like their own and Islamic cultures share the same basic values, an Israeli prime minister adopts the fantasy. He acts as if peace is within Israel’s power to bring about, if only we make a generous enough offer.
Like Barak at Camp David, he begins negotiations by signaling his final position. After invoking the “hand of God” to describe Israel’s current constellation of friends on the international scene, Olmert reminds us that even our best friends foresee a final solution in which Israel returns to its 1967 borders and Jerusalem is divided. He does nothing to disabuse them of that notion or point out the dangers for Israel.
PERHAPS OLMERT doesn’t even see the dangers. Frighteningly, in the course of his Post interview he did not mention a single lesson learned from Oslo or the Gaza withdrawal. It apparently does not occur to him that Moshe Sharon, Hebrew University professor of Islamic history, is correct when he writes: “There is no way that the Arabs… can or will accept the permanent existence of a Jewish… state in the heart of what they regard as the Arab-Islamic homeland.”
Our prime minister asks us to trust that Mahmoud Abbas accepts Israel’s existence as a Jewish state “in his soul,” even though he can’t say so. (He also assures us that Hosni Mubarak and Vladimir Putin are “very impressive” men. After all, Putin has promised him never to harm Israel’s security, the sale of advanced anti-aircraft batteries and nuclear technology to Iran notwithstanding. Nor does Olmert mention the very impressive million-man army into which Mubarak has poured billions – an army which could never be conceivably employed against any foe other than Israel – even as Egypt wallows in horrific poverty.)
Even if the Abbas who, as late as Israel Independence Day of 2001, declared Israel’s creation to be “an unprecedented crime” and vowed never to “accept this injustice” has changed his spots, what does it matter if he cannot say so without signing his own death warrant? It is the Palestinian people with whom we would have to live in peace, not just their amiable president. Israeli intelligence reports daily that, were it not for the IDF’s presence, the West Bank would also fall to Hamas, which can never accept Israel’s existence.
ASKED WHETHER the Palestinians share his urgent desire for peace, Olmert replied that it’s not his job “to worry for the Palestinians.” Well, it most certainly is his job to worry about Palestinian intentions. In his focus on the treaty as the thing, he calls to mind Shimon Peres in the heady days of Oslo. Within days of the signing of the Oslo Accords, Arafat, addressing an Arab audience, compared the accords to the treaty Muhammad entered into with the Quraysh tribe near Mecca, prior to wiping them out two years later.
Confronted with the evidence, Peres maintained his serious mien and responded: “I don’t care what the Palestinians say, only what’s in the treaties.” The same results await us today if we again ignore Palestinian and Arab intentions and what they say, including undiminished incitement against Israel and Jews.
Olmert waxes lyrical about the suffering of Palestinian refugees, and even charges Israel with the responsibility for finding a “mechanism” to end their indignity. But he never mentions that the Palestinians have been treated differently from all 12 million other refugees since 1948, and that UNRWA exists not to solve the Palestinian refugee problem but to perpetuate it. Were the refugee camps not being maintained as a perpetual strike force against Israel, Saudi petro-billions would long ago have turned them into upscale housing projects. (That would be the same Saudis whose “peace plan” is said to augur a peaceful future, but who could not bring themselves to sit in the same room with Israelis at Annapolis or allow an Israeli reporter into a press conference.)
At the end of his Post interview, Olmert indicts himself. He quotes the response of President Bush (truly a friend of Israel’s) to those who fear that Annapolis will further endanger Israel: “That’s not what I hear from the people who represent Israel.”
Therein lies the problem. Just as Ehud Barak dragged a reluctant President Clinton to Camp David to save his faltering government, so does Olmert push Annapolis because the only thing he ultimately believes in is Ehud Olmert.
This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post on January 11 2008.