What Does Ehud Olmert Want?

Amos Elon reviews The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967–1977 by Gershom Gorenberg, in the New York Review of Books:

Olmert_ehud20060622After weeks of bargaining with smaller parties, each with its own special interests, Ehud Olmert, the leader of the new Kadima party, has finally formed a new Israeli government. The election campaign was overshadowed by the specter of the comatose Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in the third month of a massive hemorrhagic stroke but still formally in office. Hawks and doves pledged their undying loyalty to his “legacy,” whatever it was. Sharon was a reckless, controversial man, exceedingly contradictory— as perhaps many interesting men are; only the dull have simple characters. He was not a man of peace, as President Bush once called him, but out of tune with his time. In an age of decolonization, half a century after the French–Algerian war, he was mainly responsible for the huge “settlement project” in the occupied territories, now often described as the great historical mistake of 1967. The occupied territories continue to fester in Israeli life like a monstrous disease. Their days seem numbered. “I hate the corpses of empires,” Rebecca West wrote. “They stink so badly that I cannot believe that even in life they were healthy.”[1]

It was a mean little empire, even before the inhabitants became restive. Other colonialists co-opted local elites, intermarried, built universities, great waterworks, and other public amenities for the colonized; Israel did little of the sort. Nearly all real improvements in the territories since 1967 were financed by the Saudis and the Gulf States.

More here.