Churchill and Olmert: A Study in Contrast
Today is the 5th day of Iyar on the Jewish calendar, and is Israeli Independence Day. Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, 58 years ago. Since that day the world’s only Jewish State has fought continuously for its existence, and has survived until today solely though the grace and protection of God and the sacrifices of its defenders, repeatedly defeating its enemies on the battlefield.
Israel and Great Britain are both island nations. Great Britain (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland) comprises one island and part of another, surrounded by water. Israel is an island of Jewish democracy, surrounded by Arab enemies bent on its destruction. The last time that Great Britain faced an imminent existential threat was in 1940, following the fall of France and the retreat from Dunkirk, when German armies were poised to stage an invasion across the English Channel.
At that time of dire threat, Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood in the House of Commons, on June 4, 1940, and spoke the following words:
[W}e shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
Ehud Olmert, the new Prime Minister of Israel, is the head of government of the world’s only Jewish State. On June 9, 2005 (just five days after the 55th anniversary of Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons), at the Israel Policy Forum Tribute Dinner, in New York City, Mr. Olmert spoke the following words:
We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies ….”
Alright, I will be the first to admit that I am abstracting one phrase from a speech, and removing the context, which was the expression of a fervent desire for a “an entirely different environment of relationships with our enemies.”
Yet, what does that mean? Olmert wants Israel’s enemies to be “our friends, our partners, our good neighbors.” I am sure that Mr Churchill ideally would have wanted Hitler’s Germany to be Great Britain’s friend, partner and good neighbor. But, as Hitler’s abrogation of the shameful Munich Treaty had already proven, it was not.. Hitler was a tyrant bent on conquest of the last free nation in Western Europe. Israel’s enemies, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah (operating from Lebanon) and the Palestinians, do not want to be Israel’s friends, partners and good neighbors. They are a collection of criminal gangs and criminal regimes, bent on destroying the only non-Muslim, non-Arab State in the region. In the memorable phrasing of George Will, “Israel is not being provocative; Israel’s being is provocative.”
Which leader would you prefer at such a time, Churchill or Olmert?