Less than two months have passed since Roni Bar-On was appointed to his new job and he is already sending Yaron Zelekha home. The move is actually appropriate for a finance minister, who is careful to pay off his debts. In so doing, the "friend of" got rid of someone who is not a friend at all. In addition, it also returned the issue of friendship in politics to the public agenda. After all, it was only a short time ago, at his party's convention, that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared that he preferred to appoint his friends to the cabinet - "and I'm not ashamed to say so."
Friendship is generally a good thing, not least in politics, where men often behave as beasts of the forest. Nevertheless, the cry should go out: Danger - friendship! Friendship, like love, tends to stir up strife and covers all transgressions. Indeed, only recently it was announced publicly that President Shimon Peres and Vice Premier Haim Ramon opposed the way in which the Second Lebanon War was waged, as they testified to the Winograd Committee.
Nonetheless they voted in favor of it and even defended it on every available microphone. They explained to the committee that as members of the cabinet and friends of the prime minister, they could not leave Olmert on his own. They deferred to their friend's opinion and stood by him.
This week they made up somewhat for their overly friendly behavior by generously handing out medals for bravery and courage to those who bore the consequences of their votes on their own flesh.
More's the pity that not all of those heros managed to make it to the award ceremonies.
President George W. Bush is another leader languishing at the bottom of the opinion polls who is known for appointing his friends, not all of whom are friends of America.
Donald Rumsfeld was made secretary of defense to assist the president in his delusional efforts to impose a new world order.
Alberto Gonzales was appointed attorney general to cover up all the crimes of the "war on terror."
Karl Rove was hired as head stage prompter, to put the intoxicating words in the administration's mouth.
They are all good ol' boys from Texas, whose loyalty to the boss on the homefront outweighs their duties to the soldiers at the front. Even Bush was not saved by his gang, who kicked the captain of their ship when he was down.
Now he has no choice but to make them walk the plank to keep himself from drowning with them.
There is one difference between Washington and Jerusalem, however: In Washington the friends have already been jettisoned, while here there are still hanging on and throwing others over the railing.
Our cabinet ministers are ostensibly elected, but for all intents and purposes they are political appointments: We are not speaking about the right man, in the eye of the public, in the right place, but rather the man who is seen, by the wrong man, as being the right man.
The minister's new clothes are being sewn not according to his suitability, but rather according to his proximity, while any child can see that the interests of the state are exposed in all their nakedness.
And what is permitted to the prime minister - and he is permitted even to boast about his unkosher appointments - can certainly be imitated by others.
And so, the good ol' boy, "one friend brings another" method - brought in from Texas, or from Binyamina - develops, and it's not hard to guess who will inherit Zelekha's position shortly.
In a place where there are such friends, it is unlikely responsible people will review the body of evidence rather than their friends in making appointments.
It's not the friends hanging with him who will save Olmert.
He would do well to remember that in politics, one has partners, colleagues and, at most - and least - temporary friends, and the public can sniff out an administration built on a foundation of backslapping and hail-fellow-well-met.
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