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Saturday, January 12, 2008

A man of many no principles

Good week everyone.

Over the Sabbath, I read an article in the JPost by Amotz Asa-El that discussed Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert. While I don't agree with Asa-El's view on the issue he was discussing (the necessity for a Ministry of Religious Affairs), I thought this description of Olmert was spot-on:
EVIDENTLY, Olmert's assessment is that nobody here really cares for ideas anymore. From his viewpoint this is logical, for he doubtfully ever had a true conviction, one for which he stood throughout his career. Just like he hugged rabbis when it suited his career and then walked out on them when that suited it, he impersonated a Mr. Jerusalem when that helped him, only to later play Jerusalem divider when that suited him.

Now one may say, "But he changed, like Rabin and Begin." Well, that's wrong. These people never abused ideas in order to ram a personal rival, as Olmert did when he promoted Ehud Barak's candidacy against Netanyahu's, snidely promising "Barak won't divide Jerusalem" - incidentally one year before Barak actually did try to divide Jerusalem.

What did Olmert really mean when he made this patently disingenuous statement: Barak won't because I will? No, he meant to say that for him ideas are but merchandise. You weigh them, you package them, you sell them, then you buy others and sell them too. Like Groucho Marx, he effectively said: "These are my principles, and if you don't like them - I have others."

Take Olmert's stance on the education crisis.

Never mind now the managerial scandal whereby teenagers were abandoned to roam the streets and malls for two months, and an entire country's academic fall semester has gone down the drain; think of the principle side: Did anyone understand what Olmert's views are concerning the school and university systems? Does he think Israel's teachers are good enough? If so, why are the students' international grades so poor? Should principals be empowered to hire and fire teachers? Why is the academic industry strapped - maybe it's inefficient and relies too heavily on government handouts?

But Olmert doesn't deal with principles, only with situations, and there too primarily from the vantage point of his personal costs and benefits.

Several months ago I asked Olmert's press office what he thought about electoral reform - an idea which Kadima originally hailed and even designated distinguished jurist Uriel Reichman to promote. Olmert's response was that he would only take a position on the issue once the Knesset itself addresses it, a prospect which he knows will not materialize anytime soon.

In other words, why take positions on issues? Why have positions at all? I am anyhow prone to change them any day. Let others have positions; I will take sides once I see what's in any of them for me.

The same went for the economy.

As soon as circumstances allowed it, Olmert began to attack Netanyahu's economics for their social cost, even while the two served in the same cabinet. Yet once he succeeded him, Olmert left Bibi's reforms intact. So why attack him in the first place? Because to him expediency is everything and ideas are nothing. Once I am here, once I am there, and the people are idiots anyhow, it's just those journalists and academics who take me to task, but how many divisions do they have?

Back when he presented the disengagement plan - which of course was someone else's idea (geographer Arnon Sofer's) and which he shrewdly calculated would be worth backing with Ariel Sharon executing it - Olmert said the time had come for Ben-Gurionesque decisions. Olmert said this over Ben-Gurion's grave; under it, Ben-Gurion was turning. Even his enemies agree that Ben-Gurion was not only a man of great decisions, but also of original ideas and unflinching convictions. Where is Olmert and where is any of that?

Some countries can afford leaders who don't generate ideas, and some can also afford ones who don't even respect ideas. Not ours. The Jewish state is thirsting for new ideas, believers and fighters - even more than Olmert is thirsting for yet another day at its helm.
If this sounds familiar to some of my longtime readers, it should. Ari Shavit said it in Haaretz nearly two years ago in his 'letter' to the eighteen families who control the country. Here's part of it:

Remember, Arik Sharon was very convenient for us. He liked power and esteemed power and understood that we are the power. But his obedience was not absolute. Here and there he was moved by old-fashioned notions of patriotism that were hopelessly unbusinesslike. On the other hand, E.O. is really a great chap. We all know it: his door is open and there's no red tape that can't be cut. There's no deal that can't be dealt with. It's the promised land, milk and money.

But the issue isn't just personal. As a vehicle, Kadima has the political structure we always dreamed of, being a party with no members and no institutions and no ideology. The new ruling party will be a vastly valuable tool to achieve our goals. Since it has no obligations downward, only upward, it will enable us to seize full control over the Israeli government. Police, prosecution, treasury - it will all be in our hands. Even the antitrust commissioner. The Supervisor of Banks. Even the Supreme Court will be manned with new, friendly faces. Like Berlusconi's Italy or Putin's Russia, Israel of Kadima will be a paradise for corporate control. The decrepit democratic regime of the 20th century will be replaced by a reign of the oligarchs with absolute economic power.

Ladies and gentlemen, do not underestimate the importance of this moment. In the last few months we proved we can hold elections with no debate of the issues, no confrontations, no true picture of the situation. We proved that by anesthetizing public opinion, we can mold it. We have perfected the art of managing the democratic process so as to yield the desired results.

And at the end, when the masses return home from the voting booth, we will be able to say with absolute certainty: We rule Israel absolutely. Not indirectly but directly, not partially but wholly. Israel is ours, dear 18 Families.

For those of you whose response is that every country has corrupt politicians who will say anything to be elected, that is not the history of this country. In 1977, just before the elections, Yitzchak Rabin resigned from the party leadership because it was discovered that his wife maintained a bank account in Washington DC - which was illegal under the foreign currency regulations at the time. Menachem Begin and Golda Meir both resigned after wars in which they were the country's leaders (Lebanon and Yom Kippur, respectively) went badly. I may not agree with everything David Ben Gurion did, but he never tried to enrich himself at the country's expense. Politicians in this country used to be straight shooters. Olmert is not. And neither is his party, which was born in sin. Olmert and Kadima must go.


At 3:54 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Ehud Olmert - does have a principle. Whatever serves his own self-interest.


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