There was a moment of comic relief during former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's belligerent interview aired exclusively on Channel 2 Friday night. Olmert spoke out against the flow of money from abroad into the Israeli political system. The booming laughter of Moshe Talanksy echoed all the way from New York to the Channel 2 studio in Jerusalem.
Olmert accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak of wasting 11 billion shekels [about US $3 billion] on preparations for military "adventures that will never take place." However, these were investments that bolstered the strength of the Israel Defense Forces, whether or not certain military operations occur. Without these investments, the world would not have imposed painful economic sanctions on Iran.
It is true that Barak and then-IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi sought to end Operation Cast Lead (Israel's three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008-2009) earlier than Olmert. Olmert, who was seeking to erase the stain of the Second Lebanon War, pushed for the fighting in Gaza to continue. The result was the Goldstone report, which caused Israel lasting harm that continues to this day. Operation Pillar of Defense (Israel's eight-day offensive in Gaza this past November) was conducted with greater caution and wisdom, leading to fewer casualties and no stinging international criticism. Even though the Israeli public may have expected the toppling of the Hamas regime in Gaza, the Israeli government, from the get-go, spoke only of military action that would return quiet to southern Israel for a limited time period. The cost-benefit analysis of this speaks for itself.
On the Harpaz affair, Olmert explained that the head of a system is responsible for everything that goes on beneath him, thereby placing responsibility on Barak (in the past, Olmert and Ashkenazi spoke ill of each other). According to this logic, if city engineer Uri Shetrit undermined Olmert when he was mayor of Jerusalem, Olmert was responsible for this because a mayor is above a city engineer. This would be foolish, in the same way it would be absurd to blame Barak for being undermined by Ashkenazi. In every proper interview, there should be room for logic.
As the Olmert interview aired on Channel 2, Hatnuah Chairwoman Tzipi Livni was battling with Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz on Channel 1. Livni confirmed that when she was Olmert's foreign minister she did not agree with the far-reaching concessions that Olmert offered to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Livni emphasized that she had offered less in the parallel talks that she held with top Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei. Olmert's claim that with a little more time in office he could have reached a peace agreement with Abbas does not hold water. After Ariel Sharon fell ill, Olmert had more than three years in power. It is not fair to absolve Abbas and Qurei just to tarnish Netanyahu and Barak.