Former prime minister Ehud Olmert warns that if the Israeli government continues to refuse to tell the world what it envisages for Gaza in “the next stage,” after Hamas, it won’t be given time by the US and the international community to complete “this stage,” destroying Hamas.
The bluster and boasting of the current political leadership, “claiming that we have as much time as we need — months, till March, next year — is unfounded,” Olmert tells Channel 12. “We have very limited time.”
What could give Israel “some time and patience from the international community are, first, to make clear that “at end of the military operation, when Hamas is defeated,” Israel will withdraw from Gaza: “We have no option to stay and no interest in doing so.” And second, to present Israel’s “picture” of Gaza post-war, as the US and international community have been repeatedly pressing Israel to do.
Says Olmert, “There is no chance that any Arab soldier or Palestinian will enter Gaza at Israel’s direction. There is no avoiding the entry of foreign forces — from Europe, from NATO countries, although not a NATO force,” he says.
“Do we want to negotiate with the Palestinians or not?” asks Olmert, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2009 and later went to jail for accepting bribes and obstruction of justice. “If we don’t say we are ready to negotiate,” and that means on a two-state solution, Israel will lose the patience and support of the international community, he warns.
But the government of Benjamin Netanyahu “doesn’t want to do this, because it is not prepared to move in that direction.”
“The Palestinian Authority is not a Zionist group; they are not our friends; they are on the other side,” Olmert says. “But Mahmoud Abbass’s [PA] security forces today work with our security forces to try to prevent terrorism in Judea and Samara at a time when we are fighting in Gaza… We have no other partner.”
Says Olmert: “Ruling out the idea of negotiations [with the PA] is telling the international community that we have no interest in a future political solution.
“We deluded ourselves that the Palestinian problem did not exist until it blew up in our faces on October 7 in an intolerable way,” he says.
“We have to make peace with our enemies,” says Olmert. “It’s either the PA or Hamas… For this government, the PA was a ‘burden’, as [far-right finance minister] Smotrich says, and Hamas was an ‘asset’,” says Olmert, referencing a 2015 interview by Smotrich. “I think Hamas is an enemy. I think the PA is not an asset, but it is the group we have to speak to,” within a framework including the international community and relevant Arab states, he says.
“If we don’t set out the picture for the next stage we will not be given the time to complete the military operation to break the military power of Hamas,” he says. “We are much closer to the end of the military operation than the bragging political leadership [claims].”
Olmert also calls for Netanyahu to quit, saying that “every minute that Netanyahu stays is damage to Israel.” He says he is not calling for a whole new government, but that Israel right now needs “a leadership with courage, integrity [and a sense of] moral obligation.”
Olmert concludes the interview by saying that one of the General Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal) commandos who saved then Sgt. Netanyahu from drowning [in the Suez Canal] in 1969, Eitan Ziv, was murdered by Hamas terrorists [Hebrew link] along with his wife on October 7 [at Kibbutz Kfar Aza]. He claims Netanyahu has not even called the family to express condolences.