This is how Haaretz’s Uzi Benziman describes what’s been going on:
- June 2008 may be remembered as the month when the Israeli public’s patience with its leaders and their style of politics runs out, as citizens are currently witnessing the inner workings of the parties exposed for all to see. In the past, backroom dealings were kept secret, but now the politicians themselves are shedding light on their dark practices, and they are doing so with gusto, in a sort of unabashed striptease revealing all their deformities. Thus, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert informed the public that Defense Minister Ehud Barak allegedly imposed upon him to reach an agreement with Hamas [huh?? Interesting if true, though Benziman’s qualification of “allegedly” implies he doubts it… ~HC] over a calm in the Gaza Strip not because it was in the national interest, but because of the Labor leader’s political considerations.
Members of the defense minister’s inner circle say in return that the prime minister allegedly reneged on an agreement regarding a prisoner swap for abducted Israel Defense Forces solders held by Hezbollah because of interests concerning the Kadima leader’s political survival.
Furthermore, the prime minister said the defense minister is imposing his will on security establishment officials, which prompted the defense minister to claim that the prime minister’s policy is as stable as a seesaw. Neither take into consideration that they are using the fate of the three abducted soldiers as ammunition to fire charges against each other.
Olmert’s pride prevents him from doing the honest thing of stepping down, even for a period of three months, and turned authority over to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni until the police investigation against him clears up. His purely selfish interests, which are completely alien to the common good, have driven him to pull a maneuver that may lead to early elections.
Had Olmert allowed Livni to take over, or given the green light for his party to hold an early primary election, then he may have boosted the chances of the current government coalition to continue, and averted a political crisis. But Olmert has his urges, and he would rather throw everything down the drain then have Livni, or anyone else from his party, take over from him.
Say he manages to pull off a last-minute deal with Shas that keeps it in the coalition, or he succeeds in delaying the preliminary reading over the proposal to dissolve the Knesset – will he then have the right to make fateful decisions? Does he believe that a dubious deal with Shas promising the ultra-Orthodox party funds will endow him with the moral authority to conduct the nation’s affairs with Hamas, Hezbollah, the Palestinian Authority and Iran?
Olmert’s public behavior these days are a repeat of his performance during the Second Lebanon War, which the public was not aware of in real time. Now like then, he lacks a cohesive opinion and is not displaying leadership. Also, his relationship with the defense establishment is problematic and, much like in July 2006, he does not trust his defense minister. Concerns about appearances are considerable factors in the prime minister’s decisions over returning abducted IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
Even if Olmert is trying to implement the recommendations of the Winograd Committee war probe, he is failing to implement its main requirement of his job: Confidence and assertiveness, two further reasons why he should step down.
I guess I hadn’t been paying attention to the continuing breakdown in the integrity an coherence of Israel’s ruling group. It must be incredibly hard for anyone who’s trying to negotiate with this chaotic government to figure out who they can rely on, or even who they should be dealing with.
One big concern. If this ruling system (I shall not say the two words “spider’s… web… “) is really this close to chaos, doesn’t that mean that these leaders’ motivation to spark a war or some other form of national emergency to distract attention from their own deep shortcomings as leaders, and even if it looks quite reckless or otherwise counter-productive, correspondingly grows?
Best precedent: Peres’s big, reckless, and quite counter-productive attacks against Lebanon in 1996. Also a precedent: Olmert’s ditto of 2006.
Recklessness in the present circumstances might take the form of launching an act of war against Iran that would have a very high probability of sparking retaliation against the United States’ very long and very vulnerable supply lines in Ira and the rest of the Gulf…
Or a big military assault against Gaza that would likely spark an explosion of anti-US actions throughout the Middle East…
Are people in the Bush administration worried about the political incoherence and instability in Israel’s current leadership? They should be.