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Thursday, July 31, 2008

More dangerous than ever

Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert may have announced his eventual resignation last night, but that certainly does not signify the end of the danger his government poses to the continued existence of the Jewish state. All his announcement does is make him a lame duck, but one who still holds the reins of executive power and who may continue to hold them for another seven months. During those seven months, Olmert could reach agreements (Hat Tip: Memeorandum) with Syria and the 'Palestinians' which - even if never ratified by the Knesset (and Israel has no constitution and no fixed in stone procedure for ratifying international agreements, such that arguably there is no need for Knesset ratification) and never implemented - could serve as precedent for the inevitable 'next' round of negotiations. Moreover, it is probable if not likely that some decision will have to be made on Iran during the next seven months (or less) and that is a decision that is most unlikely to be brought to a Knesset debate (think of how the attack on the Syrian nuclear plant was perpetrated last September - for those of us not in the Knesset it was like a sudden storm on a clear day).

For now, all the MK's on the right can do about it is to practice damage control by questioning Olmert's legitimacy even before he does anything stupid.
"The prime minister lacks the public or political legitimacy to continue with the negotiations," Communications Minister Ariel Atias of the Shas party told Ynet.

"From the moment he announced he was stepping down, he is only considered as the caretaker. What legitimacy does he have to reach an agreement with the Palestinians or with Syria that the next government would be bound to?"

Likud MK Silvan Shalom, a former foreign affairs minister, said that Olmert lacked the necessary directive to make concessions on Israel's behalf.

"This is a very serious problem. This could lead to (Olmert) making concessions towards the end of his term just so he will have an achievement to boast," said Shalom. [No kidding! CiJ]

Fellow Likud member Gideon Saar said it was the responsibility of the cabinet and Olmert's own party to prevent him from staging any dangerous underhanded diplomatic moves.

MK Avigdor Lieberman, a former minister in Olmert's cabinet and chairman of Yisrael Beitenu, also had harsh words for the prime minister's plans.

"It's sounds pathetic. The prime minister's speech was stately, conscientious and solemn. I suggest he refrain from ruining that effect. He doesn't have a majority in the Knesset, he doesn't even have a majority in his own party. He can't lead any process," Lieberman asserted.

Regardless of Olmert's announcement, a fresh round of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria ended on Wednesday under Turkish mediation. And a fifth round is due next month, a senior source close to the talks told the Reuters news agency. The source described the talks, which had taken place at an undisclosed location in Istanbul, as "positive."
If Atias' view reflects Shas' view, maybe Shas will finally support a no-confidence motion to bring down the government? After all, even forgetting what Olmert might do between now and the formation of a new government, a Kadima primary may legitimize its winner for the several thousand Kadima voters who have the right to vote in that primary but it certainly doesn't legitimize the winner for the rest of us.

As to Gideon Saar (whom I know would love to bring down the government), I hope he really doesn't expect this government or Kadima to prevent Olmert from doing anything underhanded. Talk about trusting the bees to watch the honey!

The opposition cannot afford to sit on its laurels in light of Olmert's announcement last night. The government should be forced out now and elections should be scheduled as soon as possible. November would be great. If Kadima chooses to wait until September to hold their primary with elections in November, that's their problem.

Isn't it curious then that Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu has been silent about bringing down the government now? It is especially curious since two days ago, he took former IDF Chief of Staff Uzi Dayan into the Likud, to whom he has apparently promised the defense ministry (ahead of former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe "Boogie" Yaalon, from whom we have not heard in quite some time, and making it difficult to form a coalition with Kadima if former IDF Chief of Staff and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz wins the primary there). Dayan is one of those 'moderates' that Bibi talked about a year ago. Netanyahu is trying to take what remains of the post-Sharon Likud and turn it into a Sharon-style 'centrist' party. This is Israel Harel (token right-winger) writing in Thursday's Haaretz:
Dayan, as has been proven in previous elections, is not a major vote bringer. Moreover: Quite a number of Likud members, including those who strongly object to Netanyahu's wooing of reinforcements such as Dayan and Dan Meridor, will vote for the right-wing parties. Netanyahu probably knows that, and he does not expect a dowry of votes from these new members, but rather to strengthen the pragmatic wing, which is distancing itself from the Likud's traditional ideology.

Regarding Dayan's views on the main national issues, one can say that he belongs to the large and lukewarm camp that includes Kadima, the Labor Party (which he also considered joining, according to reports) and to a great extent, today's Likud as well. The differences between them are slim.

Dayan, the man behind the separation fence, still believes in it, as he said at the press conference. In his preliminary agreement with Netanyahu, the two also agreed that when the Likud comes to power, the fence construction will be accelerated. The main reason for the fence is political, rather than security-based - it divides the western part of the Land of Israel and leaves about 90 percent of Judea and Samaria outside Israeli sovereignty. Nevertheless, he promised to complete it.

The change, therefore, is not Dayan's, as his critics claimed, but rather to Netanyahu's Likud. The Likud head has taken another step to sever his party from the broader camp, with its ideology and its proven capacity to sacrifice and to realize its ideals. He is joining an admittedly larger camp, whose ideological vagueness has led its security and political path to fail for the past two decades. Just when the public has begun to recognize this failure, Netanyahu is embarking on the path of vagueness, which lacks a goal, and therefore lacks a clear destination, too.

When no ideology exists or remains, we get policy like that of the most recent prime ministers, who mostly reacted, while others - especially the terror organizations - initiated most of the moves to which Israel responded with weakness, hesitation, a high cost in human life, resources and a loss of reputation and deterrence.
Especially for those of you who wonder why my support for Netanyahu is lukewarm at best (and why I do not plan to vote for the Likud in the upcoming election), read the whole thing.


At 11:58 AM, Blogger Ashan said...

Olmert calculated that everyone would pat him on the back for his decision to "do the right thing". And that's just what happened. The right thing that Olmert should have done was to resign immediately. But then, Olmert never does the right thing, certainly not for the good of the nation.


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