Another Tack: Stan Laurel's smile

Olmert sycophantically imparted the impression that insignificant Israel's destiny is to please its superpower sponsor.

Finally, after so much philosophizing, pondering, studying and speculating, the mystery is solved. At last I see the light from DC and realize what 4,000 years of Jewish suffering were for, more particularly why Zionism arose, why Israelis struggled for self-determination and why we keep sacrificing. Our raison d'etre is to not let America down and to make the patron from Washington proud of his pesky protege from Jerusalem. Ehud Olmert - representing a venerable ancient nation - stated as much in his speech before the Joint Houses of Congress. "Abraham Lincoln once said," he dramatically intoned (it's always useful to resort to august models), "'I am a success today because I had a friend who believed in me, and I didn't have the heart to let him down.' Israel is grateful that America believes in us," exclaimed the head of the renascent Jewish state's sovereign government. "Let me assure you that we will NOT let you down!" What a heavy weight off America's heart! Washington's peace of mind was doubtlessly restored now that troublemaking Israel undertook to do its bidding. Evidently Jewish independence was achieved at so great, still-exacted and ever-escalating a cost in order to subordinate Israel's existential interests to America's transitory realpolitik. It matters little whether this was Olmert's explicit message or whether he carelessly belittled his country by implication in his headlong alacrity to ingratiate himself. The impression he sycophantically imparted is that insignificant Israel's destiny is to please its superpower sponsor, refrain from disappointing it with uncalled for noncompliance, and obediently take its cue from its supposed benefactor. We can be depended upon to toe the line. THAT'S WHY Olmert's first order of business was to answer Bush's summons and solicit American approval for the new "realignment" brainstorm, a.k.a "convergence," previously hawked as "disengagement." The immature ward can make no move without his guardian's obligatory blessing. The very compulsory dash to DC, hot on the heels of taking office, smacks of subservience, of reporting dutifully for duty to receive orders from the commander-in-chief. So much for the Sabra New Jew, freed from the shackles of Diaspora cringing, emancipated from helplessness and the cowering mind-set known in our midst as galutiyut - obsequious self-deprecation and currying of favor with whoever could constitute danger and/or offer protection. Israel's Diaspora-born founding fathers ironically knew how to stand up to the world's highest and mightiest. They could - and often did - send foreign potentates and their emissaries packing. But not so the progeny they reared, ostensibly unconstrained by degrading complexes. Pragmatic Sabras endlessly calculate the odds and are serially overwhelmed by them. Pressurable and pliable Rabin, Barak, Sharon and Olmert - all products of our local insular upbringing - don't remotely measure up to the stick-to-itiveness of Ben-Gurion, Golda, Begin or Shamir. Sabras may swagger but they're fretful. They posture as tough unsentimental moral relativists, but they lack resolve, conviction and - pardon the untrendy term - pride. That's why Olmert flashed an inane Stan Laurel "hanger-in-my-mouth" smile when appearing with Bush, looking like a smitten overawed schoolboy in the presence of notable nabobs. So conscious was Olmert of his new elevated status, and so intent on sucking up, that the satisfied grin didn't even fade when Bush, referring to the Iranian nuclear threat, assured Israelis that "in the event of any attack on Israel, the United states will come to Israel's aid." But if we're talking about atomic weapons, what good will anything but preventative pre-attack action do? After we're nuked it'll be of little comfort even if Bush sends over experts to gauge radioactivity or super-spatulas to scrape up our remains. This little lapse in logic, however, didn't deter Olmert's self-congratulatory aides - headed by the never-elected power-behind-the-throne, Dov Weisglass - from calming our anxieties and telling us we can from here on sleep soundly at night because Bush promised us protection. That assurance is one of the pillars of Olmert's claimed success in Washington. The other was that the boss didn't rap him publicly on the knuckles for his insubordinate unilateral initiative. Indeed, Bush even called it "bold." Cause for joy. BUT THE greatest coup of all was the fact that Olmert was graced with friendly photo-ops and flattery (which is cordially extended to any guest, but which Olmert took literally and very personally). His spin-master assistants/advisers/publicists all gushed with glee when counting just how many standing ovations American legislators accorded Olmert. Their meticulous tallying reveals that Olmert came away with 13 - a momentous triumph over the mere nine managed some years back by his nemesis Netanyahu. Toting up applause (to say nothing of quantifying decibels) isn't petty. It's of profound image-bolstering value among provincial voters who aspire to vassal-statehood. Presumably this denotes something of depth regarding real issues. Hence the sympathetic coverage for Aliza Olmert's "conquest of America" and the effusive unstinting praise, heaped upon her in such stark contrast to the character-assassination practiced with equal relish against Sara Netanyahu. Most Israelis hanker after the kitsch, the hype and the pose. Real substance is too darn depressing. The bottom line is that Olmert's visit ended well. Bush didn't berate him for "another fine mess," while broadly beaming Olmert seemed to fawningly hang onto his mentor's every word, almost like Stan Laurel asking "Whatever are we gonna do now, Ollie?" It would serve all of us - those who voted for Olmert and those who didn't - to bear in mind that in the Laurel & Hardy reality, avoidable blunders inevitably lead to even more blunders, and debasement is endured so it can be repeated again.