Half a year after his first interview with ISL, Olmert reveals his vision for the state of Israel and gets surprisingly personal with our correspondent, Benjy Cohen.
ISL: First of all, the question everyone is asking: why didn't you give the customary round of holiday interviews to the press? If memory serves, you are the first Israeli PM to shun the press in this manner since, well, forever. And second – can you give us your vision for the people of Israel for the next year?
Olmert: You just answered your own question. That is the question the reporters always ask: "What's your vision". Well I don't have a vision so I just skipped the interviews. Thanks for nothing, by the way.
ISL: You're welcome. But seriously – what do you mean you don't have any vision. That's impossible.
Olmert: Why? When did I ever say I have any kind of vision? The Kadima Party itself was established with the understanding that we would have no principles, values or vision. That was the secret of our success.
ISL: Let me put it this way: what kind of advice would you give to the average Israeli citizen on this day of holiness and completeness, of new beginnings?
The best advice I can give is this: take as much as you can from society and give as little as possible in return. If I have had any kind of guiding philosophy throughout my political career than that would be it.
ISL: Thank you. Actually it seems simple enough.
Olmert: It is deceptively simple - so many people fail in following this simple rule that it boggles the mind. Even my children don't seem to get it.
ISL: They seem to have done pretty well for themselves.
Olmert: In respect to my philosophy they are failures – they have become sincere ideologues, earnest in their desire to destroy Israel.
ISL: You are disappointed that they haven't become cynical, corrupt, money-grabbing politicians like you?
Olmert: Well, like every parent I was hoping that, perhaps, at least one child would follow in my footsteps, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be. Maybe all those long hours in the office away from my kids, stealing from the public, ruined them. Public service is tough on family life.
ISL: You feel that you have failed as a father?
Olmert: Kind of. I mean it's not complete failure, after all they do hate Israel and that counts for something. But I haven't been completely successful either.
ISL: Is there anything you regret about the past year? Anything you would have done differently?
Olmert: I don't think so. Let's see: I bungled the war last summer, oversaw the takeover of Gaza by the Hamas, allowed the constant bombardment of a city in Israel, stood by while Iran went nuclear, a surprising amount of my corrupt wheelings and dealings has been publicly exposed - and I'm still in power. So, all in all, it was a very good year for Ehud Olmert.
ISL: Are there any challenges left for you? What do you wish for next year?
Olmert: I don't know. I have everything I ever wanted. Actually I'm bored.
ISL: You're thinking of retiring?
Olmert: No, of course not. At least in this job I don’t have to see my wife all the time, if you get my drift…
ISL: I see. Well, if you have everything you need, how about helping other people – the citizens of Israel for instance.
Olmert: Somehow, that doesn't sound right. Why should I help other people? What's in it for me?
ISL: Well, you said you were bored and I thought that maybe you could try doing something completely different.
Olmert: Well, it does have that going for it. It is a radical, new idea. Where did you get it? Did you think about it yourself?
ISL: Not really. Actually the idea of helping others - it's quite well known in certain circles.
Olmert: Never heard of it.
ISL: Obviously. Why don't you try it out? You might like it.
Olmert: It feels just...too weird, but I’ll think about it. Final question before I leave.
ISL: It is customary for the PM to bless the citizens of the country upon the new year. What is your blessing for this year?
Olmert: Take care of yourself suckers, because I'm certainly not going to!