Commentary Magazine


Ehud Olmert’s Epiphany

History books will one day explore the transformation of Ehud Olmert over the past two and a half years. In 2006, he was a swaggering incompetent, making implausible declarations about the IDF’s ability to dispatch with Hezbollah. In 2007-2008, as the Winograd Commission discredited his war leadership and a police investigation exposed his corruption, he became a scorned adolescent, throwing tantrums in the press and ruminating on the future collapse of the state of which he is prime minister. It was not a pretty sight.

Today, in his conduct of the Gaza war, he is wisdom and steel. He has exposed the hypocrisy of the “international community,” declaring that “no country in the world, including those that preach morals to us, would have shown restraint as we have.” He denounced the double standard the world applies to Israel, saying that when it comes to self-defense “what is acceptable for every other country in the world is barely accepted when it comes to Israel.”

And now he is going up against Livni and Ehud Barak who appear ready, right at the moment when Hamas is teetering, to quit the Gaza war. Livni is afraid that if Israel doesn’t withdraw, diplomats in Europe will criticize the Jewish state more vigorously than they already do. In his rejoinder, Olmert spoke some truth to power:

The pressure we are exerting [on Hamas] must not be reduced. Anyone who broadcasts weakness will earn the good will of the global community for 12 seconds, but will not change anything essential.

Such a perfect combination of truth and contempt! Israel’s defiance of absurd calls for cease-fire has paid dividends in Israeli morale and in exposing the hypocrisy and fecklessness of today’s guardians of the international system. I don’t know what caused the transformation we are witnessing in Ehud Olmert, but it is something for which we should be thankful.