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The prime minister’s defeat

In his Ehud Olmert analysis today, Ha’aretz writer Yossi Verter cites an Israeli government minister as saying the Israeli prime minister’s handwriting in recent days betrays that of a “battered, haunted man.”

But you don’t need to read the prime minister’s notes to see that Olmert appears weighed down by defeat. In video greetings to New York’s Israel 60 celebration Wednesday night at Radio City Music Hall, Olmert looked lost and confused, staring vapidly at the camera and muttering something about a Jewish state for the Jewish people. Looking gaunt and sitting somewhat slumped over, Olmert seemed to be speaking without notes – or deliberation – and the video editing made clear that the prime minister couldn’t even get it all in one take. It was painful to watch.

By contrast, in the video greeting President Bush sent to the Radio City event, he managed – despite a host of problems and historically low poll numbers – to look like he did a decade ago, albeit with more gray hair. He had an impish grin, spoke of the similarities between Israel and America and the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and concluded his little speech with a hearty “Mazal toff!” Audience members burst into applause several times during Bush’s recorded greeting.

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