Rosner has beaten me to it, but like everyone else I cannot figure out what Israeli PM Ehud Olmert was thinking when he said the following piece of nonsense:
We in the Middle East have followed the American policy in Iraq for a long time, and we are very much impressed and encouraged by the stability which the great operation of America in Iraq brought to the Middle East. We pray and hope that this policy will be fully successful so that this stability which was created for all the moderate countries in the Middle East will continue.Let's leave aside the question of whether this is true or false (hint: unless stability means imminent civil war, probably the latter), and focus on the many ways in which this statement advances American or Israeli policy aims in the region ... NOT! (for those who haven't seen Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan yet, please do and then laugh at this).
Did Olmert somehow miss the recent American elections? Given that Americans just sent a very clear signal that they think Iraq has been a disaster, and given that even President Bush is starting to wonder whether "stay[ing] the course" is such a hot idea, I'm confused about the target audience for this extension of gratitude.
Obviously, the most upsetting thing about these remarks is that they are a God-sent gift to those who have been arguing all along that the US went to war against Iraq because of Israel - I bet M and W are pretty happy that the Israeli PM himself has endorsed their most controversial argument. Could Olmert not have been a bit more diplomatic by presenting the benefits to America rather than "the moderate countries in the Middle East"? I have a feeling that ordinary Americans who are hearing reports of their soldiers dying in Iraq every day might have appreciated some mention of the benefits to them.
If this was some kind of twisted attempt to help the Republican Party as it gears up for presidential elections, I doubt that it will actually help the GOP. Nevertheless, Democrats are right to be furious at Olmert for his clumsy attempt to meddle in American domestic politics.
I wonder if Olmert knows that more than 80% of American Jews voted for the Democrats and against Bush, and that 65% of American Jews believe that, "looking back, the US should have stayed out of Iraq" (see AJC Annual Survey). I doubt it, but it probably doesn't make much of a difference to him. Having been told by Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski that they "have no future in the US as Jews" (see an earlier post by Rosner), American Jews must be feeling especially appreciated by their Israeli cousins these days. I am not as pessimistic as Tourism Minister Roman Herzog, one of the few Israeli politicians who pays attention to the diaspora (see Amiram Barkat) about American Jews becoming more alienated from Israel. The same survey I cited above also reports that a staggering 74% of American Jews agree with the statement that "Caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew."
Ultimately I am most worried about what Olmert's statements tell us about the state of Israeli strategic thinking today. The threats in Lebanon and Gaza are scary enough (latest news: a Qassam rocket strike on Sderot has killed a 57-year-old woman and seriously injured a man, apparently Defence Minister Peretz's bodyguard) . Is anyone thinking about the day after an American withdrawal from Iraq? It doesn't sound as if Olmert has given much thought to this issue or any of the other urgent problems crying out for attention.