Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s approval rating has been in the single digits for months; his government’s policies toward the Palestinians are overwhelmingly despised by the Israeli public. He is pushing to make concessions to the Palestinians on Jerusalem, despite the fact that, according to one recent poll, two thirds of the public oppose any Israeli concessions in Jerusalem.
Israelis almost unanimously disapprove of the government of Ehud Olmert. How then, does he remain prime minister?
In this superb article in the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick explains five reasons for Olmert’s staying power.
The first, and perhaps least problematic, was pointed out on Monday by investigative journalist Yoav Yitzhak. Yitzhak reported on his news website that Olmert’s bureau secured positive media coverage of U.S. President George W. Bush’s visit to Israel last week by setting up interviews with Bush for Channel 2 television’s anchorwoman Yonit Levy and Yediot Aharonot’s senior diplomatic commentators Shimon Shiffer and Nahum Barnea. Yitzhak argues that it is scandalous for the government to trade access to policymakers for positive coverage. But the fact is that such arrangements are the stock in trade of politics.
More interesting than Olmert’s use of the media is the media’s use of Olmert. Olmert’s need for sympathetic coverage is clear. But what do the local media need Olmert for? Their star reporters would be granted the same access by any Israeli government.
An examination of a recent incident involving the editor of Israel’s supposed “newspaper of record,” the radically left-wing Haaretz, provides the beginning of an answer.
Two weeks ago, the New York Jewish Week reported that David Landau, editor in chief of Haaretz, made an extremely unsavory remark to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a dinner last September. The statements were made at the home of U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones, with Israeli intellectuals and media elites in attendance. Glick comments on the media’s reaction:
Jewish Week’s report was a major scoop. But it raised troubling questions. Why did it take three months for Landau’s statements to be reported? Why were they not reported by the Israeli media? …
How is the media’s belief that protecting their colleague (and competitor) outweighs the public’s right to know connected to the Hebrew press’s insistent and seemingly unnecessary support of Olmert? Ahead of the withdrawal from Gaza, both Landau and his colleague from Israel’s Channel 2 Amnon Abromovich said openly that in order to ensure that the withdrawal from Gaza went through, the media needed to protect then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from all criticism. Landau openly admitted that he ordered his reporters not to report on allegations of criminal misdeeds by Sharon and to underplay the significance of the ongoing police investigations against Sharon, his sons and his close associates.
Abromovich called for the media to protect Sharon like an etrog—the delicate citron used to celebrate the high holiday of Succot. Like etrogs, Abromovich argued that Sharon needed to be insulated by layer after layer of protection to make sure that he wasn’t indicted or criticized for his actions or policies. … After Sharon was succeeded by Olmert, the media oligarchs from Haaretz, Channel 2, Yediot and Ma’ariv made clear that the extension of their “etrog” treatment to Olmert was conditioned on his adoption of their radical leftist agenda of land surrenders and settlement destruction. … After Olmert led Israel to defeat in Lebanon, the media rallied to his side. Reservists calling for his resignation were demonized as “settlers” and “agents of settlers.” State radio and television refused to cover the reservists’ protests against Olmert. And the media heavyweights overwhelmingly supported the establishment of a commission of inquiry as a way to block the call for immediate elections.
The media are so arrogant in their assertion of control over public debate in Israel that they don’t even try to hide their political agenda. On Monday, Haaretz ran a column by Akiva Eldar calling for Olmert to refuse the idf’s request to conduct a major ground operation in Gaza. The column ran under the title, “The etrog is Abu Mazen.”
The meaning was clear. Just as the media protects Olmert despite his incompetence in the interest of advancing their agenda of destroying Israeli communities located beyond the 1949 armistice lines and expelling their residents, so Olmert must protect PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen), despite his defense of Hamas in Gaza, in order to advance the same agenda.
The leftist media do not simply prevent attacks on Olmert from gaining coverage and momentum. They also intimidate into silence people who might otherwise protest. In the case of Landau’s rape remarks for instance, there were several people at the dinner party who clearly did not agree with his statements. They came as representatives of the “moderate” Right. Yet they did nothing to protest or publicize his remarks. They made no calls to the media. They did not post them on their websites. And why would they? They know that the price one pays for breaking ranks with the leftist establishment is enormous. Those who break ranks are boycotted by television and radio. If they are employed by leftist organizations, they can expect to be fired from their jobs. And so they say nothing, do nothing, and in the end, accomplish nothing.
Worse even than the media’s intimidation of Zionists is the official harassment suffered by those who insist on speaking out. And as Olmert moves ahead with the leftist establishment’s program of expelling Israelis from their communities and transferring them to Palestinian terrorists, that harassment is becoming more and more palpable.
To prevent protests of Bush’s call to establish a Palestinian terror state and divide Jerusalem, the government and the police placed Jerusalem under virtual martial law last week. …
On January 9, three activists stood in front of the Dan Panorama hotel in the capital where the foreign press accompanying Bush on his visit to Israel was being housed. Jeff Daube, Susie Dym and Yehudit Dassberg were attempting to distribute a report on Fatah’s support for and involvement in terrorist attacks against Israel to members of the foreign press. The report, written by veteran researcher Arlene Kushner, contained no policy recommendations. It simply documented Fatah’s terrorist activities. For their efforts, they were detained by the police and accused of distributing “seditious materials” and causing a public nuisance.
Beyond its harassment of street protesters and activists, the government is now attempting to silence online protests of its policies. Last week, the ministerial committee on legislation approved a bill that would make website owners and editors legally responsible for comments published on their sites. …
The cumulative impact of these phenomena has been the fifth and perhaps determinative factor enabling Olmert to continue in office. Simply stated, between the media’s intimidation and the official harassment of citizens who dare to protest or even disagree with the government’s policies, the public has simply lost faith [in] its ability to influence the course of the country. This sense of disenfranchisement has demoralized the public into silence. …
Despite all the subversive behavior that has kept Olmert in power, events of the past couple of days indicate that the Olmert government is on some very unstable ground, and that his time as PM might be coming to a close.The demise of the Olmert government is something the Trumpet has been expecting for some time, and is an event that will come with massive repercussions for Israel. To learn more, read “Can This Man Save Israel?”
Avigdor Lieberman and the Yisrael Beiteinu party quit the Israeli government of Ehud Olmert on January 16. Lieberman resigned from his post as minister for strategic affairs two days after the Olmert administration began final status negotiations with Palestinians in Jerusalem. The split could ultimately crumble the government and bring a new leader to power in Israel.
The talks included, for the first time, core issues including borders for a Palestinian state, expulsion of Jewish settlers, final status of Jerusalem and immigration of millions of Palestinians currently living outside Israel.
“On October 27, 2007, a month before the Annapolis Conference, we published our red lines for staying in the government,” Lieberman told reporters at the Knesset. “We were absolutely clear about what it would take to keep our party in the government.”
“I met with the prime minister two days before he left for the conference, and 10 days ago I reiterated our red lines yet again: If the government opens negotiations on core issues with the Palestinian Authority, we would leave the government.”
Arutz Sheva reported, “Lieberman said the land-for-peace formula that has governed Israeli negotiations for nearly 20 years has been a dramatic failure, and stressed that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria have nothing to do with the Arab world’s ongoing rejection of Israel as a Jewish country.”
“From our point of view, the concept of land for peace is out of the question,” Lieberman said, adding, “There was terrorism, there was also a conflict before 1967 and before 1948. Anyone who chooses to ignore that fact brings destruction to the Jewish state.”
“Pursue Yossi Beilin’s idea and retreat to the 1967 border. Then what? Then there will be peace? Then there won’t be any more terrorism? Anyone who says [Israel’s conflict] with the Arabs is about territory, settlements or outposts is deceiving himself and others” (ibid.).
Lieberman pointed to the Israeli Arab Monitoring Committee’s vision statement as the true and shockingly frank intent of Palestinians: “We demand independence [from Israel] for the Galilee and the Negev. We will never recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish country.”
“They say it openly,” he stated, “there is no need for interpretation.”
Instead of more land for peace, the famously failing policy, Lieberman called for territorial and population transfers that would result in a Jewish Israeli state and an Arab Palestinian state.
“We want two states for two peoples, not a state-and-a-half for one nation and half-a-country for the other. We cannot accept the asymmetry of a Jew-free Palestinian state and a bi-national Israel with 20 percent-plus minorities.”
In response to the split, the prime minister’s office said yesterday there would be no policy change from the land-for-peace map laid out at Annapolis.
The political drama is being carried out against the backdrop of increased Palestinian terrorist attacks, including a 40-rocket barrage into Jewish civilian centers, and Israeli reprisals.
The departure of Yisrael Beiteinu (which translates “Israel Is Our Home”) means Olmert’s coalition loses 11 members, retaining only 67 of the Knesset’s 120 seats. While this still forms a majority, defection of another coalition party, particularly Shas, which largely shares Yisrael Beiteinu’s position on land exchanges, would topple the ruling coalition and allow the opposition to call for early elections.
According to Haaretz, Shas has said it will stay for negotiations over borders and refugees, but if Jerusalem is put on the carving table, it will immediately walk.
A Yediot Aharonot poll found that only 8 percent of Israelis think Olmert should be prime minister.
The knock-out punch, however, could come at the end of January, when the Winograd Commission, which has investigated Olmert’s direction of Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah, issues its final report. An earlier Winograd statement, harsh but not nearly as condemning as the new report is expected to be, caused some members of Olmert’s Kadima party to call for his resignation. Kadima’s main coalition partner, the Labor Party, has indicated it may leave the government as well if the final report slams Olmert as hard as expected.For more on what Israel’s new ruling coalition might look like, including who the next prime minister might be and what will result, read November-December’s Trumpet cover story, “Can This Man Save Israel?”
| IDF soldiers kill Islamic Jihad's top commander in West Bank |
|By Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondents|
|Tags: Israel, Islamic Jihad, Jenin|
Islamic Jihad's top military commander in the West Bank was killed early Wednesday morning by the Israel Defense Forces during a raid in a village near Jenin.
In response, the militant group took part in a barrage of at least 28 Qassam rockets fired at southern Israel on Wednesday morning, causing damage to local kibbutzim. Several people were treated for shock.
The special forces entered Qabatiya, south of Jenin, in the early morning hours and surrounded the home in which the 44-year-old militant leader was hiding.
A gun battle broke out, and Obeidi eventually exited the home and opened fire on the special forces, who returned fire, killing him. Obeidi had been wanted by Israel for years.
Four additional militants were with Obeidi at the time, two of whom were wounded in the exchange of fire and taken to Haemek Hospital in Afula for treatment. The remaining two militants were taken into custody by the IDF.
Obeidi, a resident of the nearby village of Burkin, had been considered one of the more senior militants on Israel's wanted list since 2002. The defense establishment holds Obeidi responsible for a series of terrorist attacks, including a suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv shawarma stand in April 2006 that killed 11 people.
Obeidi was also responsible for numerous attempts to carry out suicide bombings in Israel during the Second Intifada. One of the bombers dispatched by Obeidi was captured by security services on Route 1, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Later Wednesday, Palestinian terrorists opened fire on the Jewish settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron. The gunshots damaged children's rooms in two homes in the area, but caused no injuries. The assailants were able to flee the scene.