On Independence Day, while Ehud Olmert was preparing his public fairytale titled "I didn't take a penny for myself," Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael visited Tzipi Livni's home. Ben-Yisrael has every possible title except for: MK, general, professor. Drawing on his expertise in operational research and philosophy, he reached a pertinent political conclusion: that Olmert was on his way out and this was Livni's chance. That conversation launched the campaign that 19 weeks later propelled Livni to leadership of Kadima and a heartbeat away from the premiership.
If she were leading a rock group, we could call it Tzipi and the Expectations. She is expected to form a nimble yet stable government, broad enough to avert early Knesset elections yet efficient enough to work and to make policy.
Her first priority will be to briskly de-Olmertize the party and to purge the rot and corruption at the top of the government. In practice, this should mean the swift exit of Olmert's crony culture in the Prime Minister's Office and in the cabinet, starting with Haim Ramon and Daniel Friedmann.
Livni has no time. She may find herself leading a state at war not in a year's time but in a month or even a week, because it is not only Israel that has the initiative. Its enemies - Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas - may be tempted to take advantage of her inexperience.
Benjamin Netanyahu could demand the defense portfolio in exchange for agreeing to join the government, as decisions over Iran draw near. That would be too high a price. Continuity and the ability to perform in an emergency justify leaving defense in Ehud Barak's hands. Despite his flaws, there is no better candidate than he in Israel for this job. The eloquent Netanyahu is more suitable for the foreign portfolio.
Olmert must move out and make way for Livni without delay.
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