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January 26, 2008: The Day of Reckoning

January 26, 2008

A good part of the Israeli populace is hoping — and praying — that the day of reckoning will come for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week when the final Winograd Report is released. The portion of the populace that is hoping his political days are numbered include many on the left who want to see negotiations with the Palestinians but are fed up with Olmert’s corruption and incompetence.

The Report will not recommend that Olmert step down : by design (Olmert’s design) this is beyond the mandate of the Committee. However, it will examine what happened in the last days of the war. If political judgment is shown to have been amiss, so that our young people died for nothing, then the conclusion that follows is powerful.


Olmert is the politician par excellence, who has managed to survive a great deal, and the question now is whether he can survive this too. He has certainly done a great deal to shore himself up before the fact, because he is unquestionably running scared at this point.

At the prestigious Herzliyah Conference last week , he gave a closing speech in which he declared that he "has nothing to apologize for." Excuse me? This tone, which I’ve alluded to before, reflects an arrogance that is part of his failing, in my opinion. At Herzliyah he recounted the ways in which we are safer since the Lebanon War — all ridiculous.

Prior to Herzliyah, Olmert mounted a different defense: That there were mistakes, but that the government has learned from them and is new and improved and thus worthy of the confidence of the nation. Even more ridiculous, as his handling of Gaza, which is now is crisis, has been horrendous.


The Editorial of the Post on Friday addressed this question of Olmert’s defense:

"…Olmert said [at Herzliyah], ‘Let me say at the outset: There is not, nor will there be, any political party or personal consideration which will deflect me from the effort of reaching a political arrangement with the Palestinian Authority.’ With this, Olmert is trying to portray himself as a crusader for principle above politics.

"But the politics cuts the other way: It is clear that Olmert sees the Annapolis process as his only ticket to survive in the face of the conclusions [of the Winograd Committee].

"…Olmert’s statement, however, is problematic not just as a justification for staying on, but for what he says he will do. He repeatedly declared that nothing will stop him from reaching an agreement with the Palestinians during what he calls ‘the narrow crack that I must widen to advance peace.’ But this is far from reassuring. It reveals a massive conflict of interest: Olmert’s political survival depends on reaching agreement at almost any cost, while the national interest requires determining and upholding red lines the crossing of which would be worse than not reaching agreement.

"The significance of the Winograd Report is not just about the need to take responsibility for past actions, but what these actions say about Olmert’s judgment…"

This is terrifying.


Caroline Glick, in the meantime, took on the prospect of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, as a replacement for Olmert, concluding that she would be no improvement. Glick refers to Livni’s nonsensical claim that the truce in Lebanon, and resolution 1701, represented a diplomatic victory for Israel, when the fact is that Hezbollah has rearmed under the nose of UNIFIL. Anyone who reads my material is aware of this.

Glick, in her column, carries it further, as she quotes Livni as maintaining that our standing strong against Hamas requires us to continue to negotiate with Abbas and Fatah. Quite the opposite is true, Glick points out. First, Fatah, as Hamas, receives assistance from Iran, and is no bulwark against anything. And in fact, Fatah is so weak that the minute we should (G-d forbid) withdraw from Judea and Samaria, Hamas would take down Fatah and be at our flank on the east as it is now on our west.

If Livni — who is politicking to replace Olmert — is incapable of understanding this, she, too, is bad news.


So where are we with all of this?

Basic law of Israel says in the case of a resignation of prime minister, it is assumed his government has resigned with him. The president of Israel (right now, Shimon Peres) then has seven days to consult with various factions in the Knesset and assign someone the task of forming a new government (which means having a coalition with at least 61 members) within 28 days. This means that Peres may become a king-maker. I will not belabor the details here, but only if this process does not succeed are elections then held. The advantage of this system is that it is less disruptive to the nation than an election.

Anyone who claims now to be able to predict how all of this will evolve is kidding him/herself. It would depend on such factors as whether there would be a split in Kadima.


I will note here that I’ve observed a shift in opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) that I have found unsettling. I listened to his speech at Herzliyah as he segued from familiar Netanyahu statements regarding the fact that Abbas is not a partner for peace to thoughts about an "economic horizon" for the Palestinians that will lead to negotiations later. "What is this man talking about?" I pondered. "He sounds like Peres and not Netanyahu." (Peres’s theories about improved economic conditions bringing peace to the Palestinians has long since been debunked. We’ve been there, done that.)

Then I connected the dots. If Peres is happy with the Netanyahu position, how much more likely that he would select him to form the next government. But what do we know, then, about the positions Netanyahu would embrace as prime minister? Truth to tell, as I see it, very little.


The crisis with Gaza is not over, as Egypt has not been able to drive all the Palestinians back into Gaza. Right now efforts are focusing on keeping Palestinians from moving towards Cairo. There is unease in the Egyptian government regarding the presence of a massive group of radicals who might destabilize the government.

Now is when a strong leader in Israel is desperately needed, so that past-due operation into Gaza can take place and Hamas can be severely weakened. How long do we sit and watch then do their thing unimpeded?




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