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Scholar: A Nuclear Iran Spells Doom for Israel
But just two weeks after Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon spoke in Ardmore and delivered a message along these lines, the younger brother of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told an audience in Wynnewood that it might ultimately be up to the Jewish state to deal with the issue.
"Were Iran allowed to possess the atomic bomb, it would be a doomsday scenario for Israel," claimed Yossi Olmert, 56, a scholar in Middle Eastern history, as part of a June 11 talk at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El.
"Yes, there is a worldwide coalition committed to putting an end to the Iranian program," he continued. Olmert holds a doctorate from the London School for Economics and Politics, and served as an adviser to Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir.
"If - just if - the American-led coalition will not come to the right decision at the right time, then the onus will fall on the shoulders of Israel. And we will know what to do."
When pressed on that statement, he did not elaborate further, except to say that the "decision" would not necessarily mean an air strike similar to the one carried out on Iraq's Osirak nuclear facility 25 years ago.
Olmert, a former professor at Tel Aviv University and a onetime political hopeful in Israel, has kept a relatively low profile during the last two years. News reports say he left Israel in 2004 owing roughly $600,000 to creditors who had financed several failed political campaigns.
In the mid-1990s, he ran for a Knesset seat on the Likud ticket, and later sought to be mayor of Ra'anana.
"Nothing is preventing me from going back to Israel," Olmert said when asked about his troubles.
Not long after his older brother was elected premier and became Israel's leader in earnest, Olmert was hired as a scholar-in-residence by the Israel Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group.
He has also been listed on the Jewish National Fund Speakers Bureau, through which the congregation's Israel Advocacy Committee set up the event. The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia subsidized the program.
Following his remarks, Olmert engaged in, at times, a spirited question-and-answer session with the audience. He chided more than one person for referring to possible future withdrawals from the West Bank, rather than using the biblical names of Judea and Samaria.
"We believe the entire land of Israel is Jewish land by right," said Olmert, not specifying who he meant by "we." He repeated his brother's sentiment that it is only out of demographic necessity that longtime advocates for a "Greater Israel" are willing to cede land to the Palestinians.
He said that the Israeli government is willing to negotiate with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, though it does not plan on repeating "the mistakes of Camp David," where 95 percent of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank was offered to create a Palestinian state.
But as for the Hamas-led Palestinian government, "there is no way we are going to negotiate with these bunch of murders.
"We are going to destroy Hamas," he added.
One audience member said he was surprised that Olmert's lecture, billed as a Middle East update, made no mention of Iraq.
Olmert said that by and large, the current quagmire there does not directly affect Israel.
Moreover, he added, "Israel does not meddle in America's business."