|Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem|
English lessons, java and a scary stare
By DAVID BRINN
Reporter's Notebook: One trait Olmert apparently hasn’t picked up since leaving office is humility.
The allure of latte
Israeli coffee aficionados may boast of how local
establishments like Aroma and Arcaffe bested the US upstart Starbucks when it
tried to acquire a foothold in Israel. But while in at the Times Square Marriot
Marquis Hotel in New York on Sunday for The Jerusalem Post Conference, Israeli
dignitaries couldn’t get enough of the American java.
Former chief of
staff Lt.- Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenzai stood in line like everyone else for his
fix (grand latte, what else?). And Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor, who had been
called to the backstage area ahead of panel appearance on delegitimization
efforts against Israel, sternly approached the production manager of the
“I wish to issue a formal complaint to the conference,” he
said with mock solemnity that turned into a broad grin. “I was in the middle of
ordering coffee at Starbucks when you called me. I had to run out, so now, you
owe me a cappucino.”
After brief negotiations, Prosor agreed to go
onstage with the promise of a steaming cup waiting for him when the session
How do you say that in English?
While most of the Israeli speakers
at the conference possessed good to fluent English, there’s always a level of
insecurity when speaking in a non-native language, even if you’re a government
As the first speakers of the morning said their piece,
Environment Minister Gilad Erdan was sitting in front of me with his speech,
making last-minute adjustments.
More than once, he turned around and
asked about a particular English idiom or phrase.
“Is there really a word
that sounds like rain,” he asked, referring to a ‘reign’ of terror.”
Erdan got up to speak, and later during his panel appearance, he did just fine –
both with his English, which was as good as most of the other speakers – and
with his nationalistic message, which appealed to many in the
Amid the morning registration and the general
tumult in the conference area, reporters received an announcement that Morris
Talansky, the Long Island businessman who testified against Ehud Olmert, was
going to hold a press conference in the hotel during the lunch break to
allegedly set the record straight about his relationship with the former prime
With all the newsmakers already scheduled to speak, it was a
development that only added to the stress level of the dozens of media
representatives gathered at the conference.
It turned out that the
announcement was a hoax, perhaps intended to ruffle Olmert’s feathers.
Nevertheless, representatives of the Israeli media, such as Gil Tamary, Channel
10’s Washington correspondent, were still roaming the halls in the early
afternoon trying to determine if Talansky was going to show.
Olmert may have had lots of time to reflect on his prime ministership
and to work on improving himself since leaving office. But one trait he
apparently hasn’t picked up is humility.
During his afternoon panel
appearance, which also included Ashkenazi, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and
Post columnist Caroline B. Glick, Olmert took offense to a question from
the Post’s diplomatic reporter, Herb Keinon – the moderator of the
All Keinon did, after asking his question and having Olmert
acknowledge it and say he was going to talk about something else, was to ask
lightheartedly, “Are you going to answer the question too?"
That initiated a
long, uncomfortable silence in which Olmert stared at Keinon with a look that
could only be described as scary. He finally responded, saying that while had
agreed to be the keynote speaker at the conference, he had never agreed to
answer every question posed to him by the Post.
The incident passed, and
the session went on to include the already-reported fireworks between Erdan and
Dagan. But for many, Olmert’s questionable behavior overshadowed the discussion.
For the unflappable Keinon, it was just another day at the proverbial office,
made more palatable after the conference by a pleasant evening stroll through