17 Apr. 2007

Informed Comment On Israel

Juan Cole has some informed advice for Australians:
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking in Australia, said he left it to Australia and the US whether to withdraw from Iraq or not. He said that he did want to stress that if the US and Australia withdrew, they should do so in such a way as to retain their authority and preserve their gains in the region.

The problem with this advice is that it is impossible to follow it. Any US withdrawal from Iraq will inevitably affect its prestige. But then, the quagmire is a daily reminder to everyone in the region of the limits of US power.

Olmert made a big deal about 'living in the region' and therefore 'knowing something of its dynamics.' I think his war on Lebanon last summer demonstrates the falsity of the latter claim, and my advice to Canberra would be pretty much to keep his track record in mind. Even in Israel, he is at 14% in the polls.

Anyway, I think the implication of his statement, despite his beating around the bush, is that he doesn't relish a US and Australian withdrawal from Iraq because he thinks it will adversely affect Israeli security. Olmert doesn't understand regional dynamics and doesn't seem to see that the longer the US and its two remaining major allies in Iraq try to stay there, the worse the situation gets, which actually is the thing that is threatening to Israel.

The Belgian Minister of Defense has demanded that Israel pay for the clean-up of the 1 million cluster bombs Olmert ordered fired into south Lebanon, mostly in the last 3 days of the war last August. There was no military purpose to this act of vicious sabotage, and it was clearly a war crime. The goal was to injure Lebanese civilians returning to South Lebanon, and, since they largely support Hizbullah, to weaken that group in the south. Kudos to Andre Flahaut for daring stand up on this issue. Israeli politician Shimon Peres has admitted that deploying the cluster bombs was a "mistake."

So if the Australians know what is good for them, they won't pay too much attention to Olmert, perhaps the most inept prime minister Israel has ever had.
Ironically, while Olmert visits Australian, Aussie Jewish blogger Antony Loewenstein is promoting his book "My Israel Question" in Israel's leading newspaper.