Op-Ed: Looking Back at Olmertia
During Ehud Olmert’s period in the prime minister’s office, I coined the term, “olmertia.”
So bad was the crippling effect Ehud Olmert’s policies had inflicted upon Israel that "olmertia", a word which both rhymed with and had a similar meaning to the word, inertia, described the situation in Israel; what the Penguin English dictionary referred to a state of being inert and sluggishness; a lack of skill; an indisposition to motion, exertion or change. But the meaning of olmertia for the Jewish state went much further and was far more debilitating than mere inertia.
These symptoms would be bad enough if applied to Israel when confronted by the external aggression launched upon it by Hezbollah from its base in Lebanon and Hamas from its base in Gaza. But most Israelis are capable and anxious to act swiftly and decisively against any enemy.
It was something else. A dreadful force was crippling the very survival of Israel and destroying its famed ability to meet challenges and overcome them. What was this force? It was embodied in the person of the then Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and the name to describe its baleful influence on the Jewish State’s existence was the one I coined: olmertia. Perhaps it is still a word destined to enter the dictionaries of the world’s languages.
Prime Minister Olmert came to power when Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke and sank into a coma from which he never emerged. Sharon had caused a seismic rift in Israeli society by his notion that to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip, expelling its Jewish communities, he would thus offer the Arab Palestinians a golden opportunity to prove to the world that they could create a civilized and viable society.
As the world now knows, a monstrous Hamastan emerged with no interest in nation building. On the contrary, the Hamastanis, (aka Arabs who call themselves Palestinians) have spent their every waking hour launching missiles at Israeli towns and villages with the intent to kill and maim as many Jewish civilians as they can. The idea, euphemistically called “disengagement,” became an enormous disaster for Israel. It was an idea that Ehud Olmert joyously embraced.
Into Sharon’s shoes stepped none other than the husband of an allegedly leading “Peace Now” advocate and the father of an extremely left-wing daughter who, it was reported, allegedly made life difficult for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in their attempts to prevent Palestinian terrorism. Such was the family surrounding Israel’s then Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert.
Ehud Olmert came to power with a new party, Kadima, dedicated to repeating the awful mistake of the retreat from Gaza, this time in the ancestral and Biblical heartland of Israel; Judea and Samaria (what a hostile world prefers to call the "West Bank"). But then an act of naked aggression against Israel was perpetrated by the Iranian and Syrian backed Hezbollah terrorist organization based in southern Lebanon.
On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah infiltrated Israel, killed eight soldiers and kidnapped two who were subsequently spirited back into Lebanon. This clear act of war was met initially with retaliatory air strikes. Israel’s lone ally in the world, the United States, gave the Jewish state encouragement to once and for all eradicate the menace of the Iranian threat; its puppet in Lebanon, Hezbollah.
Ehud Olmert was a disaster as captain at the helm of the Israeli ship of state. As Charles Krauthammer reported in his article, Israel’s Lost Moment, Olmert “foolishly relied on air power alone, denied his generals the ground offensive they wanted, only to reverse himself later.”
For Israel, Olmert’s dithering made victory a “paradise lost” as a bruised but relatively intact Hezbollah remained to threaten Israel again.
As Krauthammer further stated in his scathing criticism of Israel’s burdensome Prime Minister, “… his search for victory on the cheap has jeopardized not just the Lebanon operation but America’s confidence in Israel as well. That confidence – and the relationship it reinforces – is as important to Israel’s survival as its own army. The tremulous Olmert seems not to have a clue.”
Caroline Glick, a most perceptive Israel journalist, wrote about Ehud Olmert’s leadership, or lack thereof, in an article written on August 4, 2006 :
“… The bad news is that Israel’s national leadership has so far managed to take every political and strategic advantage that Israel has, and turn it into an impediment. Today, assuming Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will let us win, what three weeks ago could have been a rapid victory will now be costly and slow.” Because of Olmert’s disastrous leadership, Israel has – as Caroline Glick put it, “… become a guppy swimming with sharks.”
The cloying influence of "olmertia" had revealed itself countless times since his accession to Israel’s political leadership. Addressing the IDF War College, Olmert claimed that, “the nation is contending with these (Hezbollah) missiles and beating them.”
If it were not so tragic, his statement would have been hilarious. The reality was that northern Israel was being showered with ever growing numbers of katyusha and other missiles, burning the beautiful forests and hillsides of the Galilee and killing and maiming Israelis in their homes, while most spent days and nights in shelters.
Olmert, who should have allowed the IDF to immediately enter southern Lebanon with a mailed fist, instead held them back and sent in too few soldiers - who were not empowered to overwhelm Hezbollah, which had six long years to build immense fortifications and deep bunkers.
"Olmertia" led to Israel’s legendary military deterrence being disastrously compromised and to Israel’s Arab and Moslem enemies becoming infinitely emboldened. Like sharks smelling blood, ever growing numbers of them then, as now, circle for the kill.
Pity the Israeli infantry soldiers who were forced to face the terrible firepower of the Russian supplied arsenal given to Hezbollah by Iran, or the tank soldiers as they tried to avoid the Russian supplied super sophisticated Coronet anti-tank weapon.
Then consider if that soldier, facing death, came from one of the Jewish villages in Judea and Samaria only to hear in the thick of the battle that his leader, his Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, had announced to the Associated Press that, “… Israel’s “victory” against Hezbollah will pave the way for the implementation of my plan to transfer control of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians.” That is what happened.
As I wrote, the term "Olmertia" is so much more debilitating than mere inertia.
How must that poor soldier have felt to know that not only had Olmert’s leadership of the war been an unmitigated disaster in the making, but his own family might soon be driven from its home and land by this very same Prime Minister,, the orders carried out by his buddies in the IDF. Such was the bane of "olmertia".
From the Jewish village of Eli, its existence threatened by Olmert, a wondrously brave officer of the famed Golani Brigade and father of three young children gave his life during the battle to oust Hezbollah from the fortified Lebanese Arab settlement of Bint J’bail. Major Ro’i Klein, with his dying breath, uttered the Jewish prayer affirming the irrevocable and immutable unity of God, the “Shema Yisrael” as he covered a terrorist hand grenade with his body to save the lives of his soldiers.
And this man’s grieving family could well have become a future victim of the banality known as "olmertia".
It was hoped at the time that wiser heads would prevail in Israel and Ehud Olmert would finally come to his senses before the United Nations ceasefire overtook Israel’s terribly belated military action against Hezbollah-infested Lebanon. But it was not to be.
Painfully won Israeli advantages in territory and security are assets that cannot and must not be given away to an Arab and Moslem world that has only one interest and desire; to utterly destroy the Jewish state and never, ever live side by side with it in peace. This simple fact, one that any child can understand, eluded Ehud Olmert as it still evades too many politicians of the Left.
Giving away Gaza was a monumental error. Giving away the buffer zone in southern Lebanon was a colossal error. Giving away Judea and Samaria would be a catastrophic error.
Ehud Olmert, before, during and after his premiership wanted to give the Arabs, who call themselves Palestinians, the ability to launch ever more deadly showers of missiles upon Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, and the rest of Israel from the hills of Judea and Samaria.
The only word that can describe such a retreat from sanity and reality today - still embraced by the Israeli left - is the one I now again offer you: "olmertia".