Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is commenting on his decision not to run in the upcoming Knesset elections, days after party registration closed. In a special interview with Ynet he explains his personal dilemma regarding entering the race, Israel's isolation in the international arena and Operation Pillar of Defense.
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It appeared as though you were returning to political life – what happened?
"I saw a (political) arena I didn’t like. Knesset members being auctioned off and in my camp there were other considerations that influenced my decision. I'm not blaming anyone. The general atmosphere was that there was no sense of proportionality, responsibility or an attempt to put state over ego. There was also the personal persecution of the state prosecutor who decided to appeal (the ruling clearing Olmert of corruption charges)."
Did your family's objection not play a role in your decision?
"We never got around to those discussions. There were two considerations: the political landscape and the fact that entering the race would mean dividing my attention to several areas."
Is Tzipi Livni's Hatnua Party good for Israeli politics?
"I can't give an accurate estimation. I hope the centrist bloc will be strong enough to replace the government."
Olmert. 'Israel ruled by far-right leadership' (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
What do you think about the Netanyahu-Lieberman alliance?
"It's the most natural thing in the world. Lieberman and Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) have the same opinions. Israel is being ruled by a radical far-right leadership that is getting into a confrontation with the entire international community."
What is your interpretation of the Palestinians' success at the UN?
"The Palestinian move entails possible complications for Israel. It's the first time the UN solidifies the notion of two states – a Palestinian state separate from Israel. I don't think it's a catastrophe.
"Nevertheless, what does Israel look like when 139 states vote against us, 41 European states abstain so as not to embarrass Israel and President Obama uses all of his personal prestige and that of the US to back Israel? What is the Israeli stance exactly? The Palestinians filed their request and we punish them with the construction of thousands of housing units. It's a form of defiance, an attempt to take on the international community.
Netanyahu and Lieberman (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
What are you hearing from the US administration about our government and prime minister?
"I don't want to repeat what I heard. I wouldn't hide it if it were words of praise. As a citizen of Israel, you feel bad hearing these things, and not so long ago the president and the prime minister were the best of friends. How did we get to such a personal lack of trust? We all remember Sarkozy's words and Obama's response."
Are we headed to an explosion with the US?
There were many explosions. America is Israel's friend. It is committed to Israel's security and no government will ruin Obama's commitment. Romney was also a friend of Israel, we should not have interfered in this campaign. We no longer have the critical ability to talk face to face."
Olmert stresses he offers no counsel to any foreign elements.
"It is my impression that Israel is systematically losing any sympathy it may have had in the international community. This was evident in the past few weeks. We declared we would strike in Iran and decide for ourselves. But when we needed a ceasefire – we needed everyone. Everyone came and helped reach a ceasefire with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
"Never has the Egyptian president met with Hamas in his palace. The government failed to create the right leverage, including with Turkey. It's a strategic mistake of the first order. I think we are losing the same layer of support."
'We all remember Sarkozy's words (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
"When Operation Cast Lead ended, when 1,600 Palestinians were killed, I headed a government that constantly fought terror. This government is not doing enough, but talks a lot. When we launched a ground operation, all of Europe's leaders lined up to praise Israel."
Was Operation Pillar of Defense a strategic failure?
"There was justification to kill Jabari. I laud that decision. But the bottom line is that the result was that we did not stop Hamas or the Jihad. They have become stronger having gotten a diplomatic umbrella. In my day Mashaal never dared come near Gaza. Today he appears as a triumphant hero. I don't want to point fingers. Have things improved? They have de facto recognition. It's not a good sign.
Should Israel enter into negotiations with Hamas?
"If Hamas stops terror and accepts the terms I'll sit down with them. The government's position is right and is an extension of mine own and Sharon's positions. You can't say 'we won't talk to Hamas' and then weaken Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) who is fighting terror. He was elected and is the Palestinian people's foremost representative. He is against terror."
But he didn't accept Israel's peace plan
"He made a very serious and unforgivable mistake. He understands that now. He asked for three more months to sign the agreement. Take that and compare it to Hamas' statements and choose who to talk to. This government is not offering any alternative to terror. "
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