I hope that the Obama-Netanyahu team will find between them the understanding to put relations between our two countries on a genuinely sound footing, without the shtick of your friend Olmert.
By YOSSI AHIMEIR
Farewell, George Bush. Go in peace from the White House to your ranch in Texas. A heavy burden will be taken off your shoulders today. You are probably already heaving a sigh of relief. You are no longer responsible for world peace and the peace of your great nation. You are no longer the most powerful man in the world. The only arena in which you will have to contend now is the golf course.
You have been considered a friend. A real friend. There are even those who say one of the greatest friends ever of the American presidents. I am not so sure of that, but you have certainly showed understanding for our positions.
But let us remember: You never had any trouble with the Israeli prime ministers whom you faced. The reason is simple: They did your work for you. They adopted your "vision of a two-state solution," Arab-Palestinian and Israeli-Jewish, with the greatest of ease.
They even went farther than you. They spoke of withdrawal to the borders of 1967. Arik Sharon even volunteered to do it in the Gaza Strip with a unilateral withdrawal whose dire consequences we are all suffering today. Just imagine, they talked and are now talking of dividing Jerusalem and leaving the Golan Heights.
You must certainly have shaken your head over this privately, but you never bothered to stop them. You must have said to yourself: "If the Israelis are volunteering to give it all away - who am I to intervene and stop them? You rejoiced at being giving the title of US president friendliest to Israel. You earned it cheaply. Sharon and Ehud Olmert helped you by paying for your friendship with Israeli currency, with far-reaching Israeli concessions (some in deed, some in word).
NO DOUBT about it: Your sincere friendship for Israel contrasted with the position of your father, George H.W. Bush. He tried to coerce Israel, but opposite him stood a prime minister solid as a rock. Yitzhak Shamir did not rush to make concessions that would endanger the future of Israel. He stood firm against the brutal pressures that your father brought to bear against him and at the same time, he knew how to cooperate with the president of the greatest superpower on earth, both in the Gulf War and at the Madrid Conference. Shamir preserved settlement and safeguarded his country's interests.
In recent years, Mr. President, you have gotten to know our Ehud Olmert. You met often, you embraced and whispered together. He is going home a few days after you do. Do you really think that you knew him? Did you truly consider him a reliable and responsible leader? In recent days you got your answer when he divulged details from your conversation with him.
I understand your need, that of the American administration, to deny that he pressured you, and that as a result your secretary of state changed the US vote in the UN. For even if Olmert was telling the truth, he shouldn't have boasted about it and hurt US-Israel relations.
We will be holding elections shortly despite Operation Cast Lead, and afterward Olmert's party will be sent to the opposition. The Likud will almost certainly take office with Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister. I hope that the Obama-Netanyahu team will find between them the understanding to put relations between our two countries on a genuinely sound footing, without the shtick of your friend Olmert.
So, farewell George Bush, President Bush, and regards to your charming wife Laura.
The writer is a former member of the Knesset and bureau chief of prime minister Yitzhak Shamir.
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