Olmert, some Saudi dude and other Animals
So apparently Ehud Olmert met with someone high-up in the Saudi regime a couple of weeks ago. They discussed the rather defunct 2002 Arab peace initiative, which offered Israel full normalization with Arab states, in return for a withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and a return of the Golan Heights to Syria.
Some might say that the very fact of this meeting shows one of two things:
- Olmert's desire for peace, based on his government's initial platform of 'setting permanent borders for Israel' and withdrawing from the West Bank;
- The pressure Olmert has felt since Israel has been widely recognized as having lost a war against a bunch of people with guns and beards (read that link, it's the funniest thing regarding the war I've seen yet).
It seems that Olmert's rosy agenda of continuing Sharon's legacy by withdrawing from part of the West Bank (and putting them under siege, see Gaza) has been scuffled by said men with guns and beards. Olmert is keeping the Israeli government afloat by doing very little, having already said that his 'Convergence' plan to withdraw from the West Bank has gone out the window following the war. As Uzi Benziman points out, Olmert is no longer steering the ship of government, but is rather treading water to save his own neck.
Coupled with his lack of movement on anything whatsoever, Olmert has also been looking to the right to try and expand his government and put it on a more stable footing. He's been talking with Avigdor Lieberman, who is the far more intelligent ideological brother of Efi Eitam, he of 'let's kill tens of thousands of enemy civilians' fame. Now, this may have been a ploy to get the Labor ministers in the government to vote in favor of a budget that was rather opposed to their own social agenda. That certainly succeeded: as that last link details, there have been no major social shifts in the new budget. However, it seems the threat of Lieberman is still looming.
So what is Olmert up to? Looking at popularity polls since the war, we see that support for Olmert is pretty low (ok, really low, 22%). However, support for defense minister Amir Peretz is still lower (14%. Shouldn't everyone be out of office with those sorts of numbers?). The chief reason for Peretz's abysmal numbers is, of course, Israel losing the war to beards, guns, etc.
Now, Lieberman is seen as a strong military-minded man who offers not only leadership but an agenda that includes getting rid of quite a few bothersome Arabs. So if Olmert decides some time soon that getting rid of Peretz will shore up his own poll numbers, the man with Stalin's mustache will find himself back on the street, while Lieberman will find himself sitting in Peretz's old chair.
Looking at the picture of this potential new Defense minister, you will note that he sports a rather fashionable little beard. He's also been known to carry a gun.
My conclusion: men with beards and guns, be they Israeli, Lebanese, Afghan, Iraqi or anything else just don't go well with the idea of peace. Something about that beard, I suppose...
|Israel|Palestine|Ha'Aretz|Middle East|War|Israeli press|Politics|Avigdor Lieberman|Ehud Olmert|Amir Peretz|Polls|