Friday, November 17, 2006

As PM's plane lands in Israel, cabin attendant should say: Time to wake up

Excellent piece by Nahum Barnea on the English Yediot Ahronot website: 

Los Angeles: Dreams are what Los Angeles is made of. There's no other place in the world that manages to suppress reality to the extent this city does.

There's no other city that rises and goes to bed at night with the film industry and whose state governor is an Austrian muscleman and a macho movie actor who one bright morning decided it was time to play the part of a politician.

Just a week ago California residents once again voted the current actor in for another term in office.

Those listening to Ehud Olmert at his public appearances here get the impression that he has blended into the city's atmosphere. The man is living in a dream world. Everything is just hunky-dory.

The American war in Iraq is a stabilizing factor in the region. The Israeli war in Lebanon ended in victory. Iran is making threats, but the conclusion is already known. Israel will eliminate the threat before it's too late. This is the time to sign up for a trip to Israel.

I know that Olmert doesn't really think this way and that the euphoria is part of his rhetoric style and doe not necessarily reflect his true feelings. The audience, made up of wealthy Jewish Americans and their heavily bejeweled wives, likes this type of self praise, so why not give these Israel-loving Jews an hour of contentment.

The increasing gap between rhetoric and reality is worrisome as it is.

Bush's assurance

If I understood Olmert's hints correctly, the president assured him that his administration would stop Iran before it manages to complete its nuclear ambitions. The Americans will try to stop Iran by using international pressure. If they don't succeed in doing this (so far they have failed time after time in this arena) they will resort to a military operation with or without Israel.

The president is convinced that he can attain widespread support for such an operation that would also include the Democratic Party.

The Democrats' victory in Congress has almost completely paralyzed the Bush administration and is threatening to force it to implement moves that oppose its policies in Iraq. An operation against the Iranian threat, however, is a completely different matter. Israel supporters will back such a move, but not only.

But there's a price to pay for such an operation, whether in the form of economic pressure on Iran or a military operation. The Iranians are expected to respond and they will do so harshly. Israel shouldn't be preparing for a peak year of incoming tourism, but for a year of fortifying the home front.

The 4,000 good Jews, who applauded Olmert enthusiastically when he spoke of Iran, should realize that they are also likely to be part of this home front.

Iran's revenge

If Iran is unable to get its revenge on Israel, it will do so in Jewish centers overseas. It did so when it bombed the Jewish center in Buenos Aires in settlement of a much smaller account – it was for one targeted assassination, not historic, carried out by Israel in Lebanon.

While the Qassam rockets are continuing to fall on Sderot and Ashkelon, despite and perhaps because of the IDF's operations in the Gaza Strip, the prime minister has found himself in a frustrating predicament. He speaks to the defense minister because this is protocol, but he has absolutely no respect for his defense minister's judgment.

He can't speak to his chief of staff because they aren't on speaking terms. They are at loggerheads because Olmert erred in his choice of words when responding to Israeli journalists' questions as to whether Halutz should quit or not. His wording was interpreted as not backing him.

When Olmert tried to rectify this, Halutz made sure Olmert understood that he didn't believe the PM's belated statement of support. It doesn't matter any more what he meant, because while people are dying, there is no trust between the prime minister and the chief of staff.

Olmert's visit to the United States bore all the signs of a good dream: Honor and appreciation, love and affection. A lot of people here in Los Angeles like him personally. Others admire him for his title and the country he represents. At dawn he left for his long journey home.

As the plane comes in for landing in Tel Aviv, the cabin attendant should prepare to say: Mr. prime minister, it’s time to wake up. 

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