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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Netanyahu has no strategy for the war


To further discuss Israel's planned invasion of Rafah, we're joined by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is a critic of the current government, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Good morning, and thank you for being on the program.

EHUD OLMERT: Good morning.

FADEL: So you've written that Israelis should flood the streets to stop Netanyahu from sending the military into Rafah for this invasion. Is your concern similar to that of the United States, that there's no plan to protect civilian life, including the hostages that are possibly being held there?

OLMERT: Yeah. Well, I actually suggested to the Israeli public to go to the streets in order to help remove the Israeli government not only because of Rafah, a possible Rafah invasion, but because of the entire performance of this government for a long time, starting even before October, but certainly and particularly after October.

FADEL: Do you think that it is in his interest to actually end this war as prime minister?

OLMERT: I think that this is in the interest of the state of Israel, and the ultimate responsibility of the prime minister is to act according to the interests of the state, the national interests. Is it also the interest of Netanyahu in view of the fact that he is facing the conclusion of his trial in the criminal court in Jerusalem and at the same time that he is facing the growing opposition of millions of people in the country? Most likely, no. So this is the problem that we have.

FADEL: How have you viewed the way he's conducted this war?

OLMERT: The one thing is clear, that there was no political strategy, that there was not any understanding of what is the end-game vision of this government and that what they expect to take place in the event that we will be enormously successful and we will destroy all of the Hamas and we will kill every single Hamas fighter that there is in Gaza, on ground, underground, everywhere. We still have six million Palestinians living in the West Bank and in Gaza. Is there any strategy that the government has in how to deal with these six million people?

Do they want to continue their occupation forever, or do - are they prepared to embark on negotiations with Palestinians that are prepared to make peace with us, and they are ready to negotiate with us, and then embark on this process that Joe Biden so generously offered, which will end with normalization with the Saudis? I never heard one word. No one else heard one word from Netanyahu about the strategy for the day after - no political horizon, no strategy, nothing. So...

FADEL: And, in fact, Netanyahu...

OLMERT: Yeah. How conducted - how...

FADEL: Yeah.

OLMERT: ...Netanyahu conducted the war. The part that he is responsible for is a total failure, is an outstanding failure, is an historical failure of, you know, great proportions. Unheard of.

FADEL: And in fact, he's very publicly stated that he does not want a two-state solution or that he rejects a two-state solution. My last question is, what do you make of the U.S. pausing the shipment of bombs to Israel in light of the possible invasion of Rafah, which the U.S. has warned against?

OLMERT: Look, you know, I love Joe Biden so much. I'm biased. I think that he has been admirable in his support for the state of Israel. If he reached a position or he reached a conclusion that in order to stop Netanyahu of doing things which might be disastrous not just for us, for all the parties involved, and, therefore, he needs to sustain for the time being the delivery of some weapons - this is terribly big. I definitely - if we need these weapons for the sake of Israeli security, then I'd very much want them to come regardless of all the violations that Netanyahu makes. But I can't complain about Biden because I think Biden is the most unbelievable supporter of Israel's security. And if he reached that conclusion, then we have to come back to ourselves and ask ourselves, what wrong did we do in order to deserve it?

FADEL: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, thank you for your time.

OLMERT: All right. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel
Leila Fadel is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.