Rooting out Olmertism
If we do not radically change our forgiveness toward the roots that gave rise to Olmertism - by thoroughly shaking up the moral, ideological and mental systems - we are liable to crown a new Olmert in the next elections.
We held off on saying "Good riddance." Ehud Olmert will continue to serve as prime minister for some time. Even when he leaves the public arena, Olmertism will not disappear unless we can rally and "search and try our ways."
To leave behind the moral revulsion of the Olmert era, it is not enough to replace the man. We must eradicate from within us the spiritual, societal and political infrastructure - the "sins of the public" that enabled people of his kind to reach the top of government.
"The imagination of man's heart," as we know, "is evil from his youth." And to keep that evil imagination from taking control of us, we fight it our entire lives. The success of the struggle, particularly for those in positions at whose doors "sin coucheth," depends on the ethical norms that society sets for itself, among other things. Olmert, and more than a few of the officials who preceded him, climbed up the rungs of government because a significant portion of the public scoffs at norms of integrity. This happened despite investigations of these officials' actions by the police, prosecution and media.
Indeed, Olmert led Kadima in the last election and won the public trust, as he loves to stress in his latest speeches. Kadima, some of whose top people are serial subjects of criminal investigations, garnered more votes than any other party.
If we do not radically change our forgiveness toward the roots that gave rise to Olmertism - by thoroughly shaking up the moral, ideological and mental systems - we are liable to crown a new Olmert in the next elections. Perhaps one less afflicted by personal corruption, but someone who grew from the soil of distorted norms that permitted an electoral victory by a party whose leaders reflect that morality.
After all, Olmertism, the legacy of Sharonism and Peresism, is afflicted not only with personal corruption but also public corruption. A forgiving attitude toward that corruption is part of the personal morality of a significant proportion of the public.
Were we as zealous about public standards as we are of our personal rights - of the "I deserve it" mentality - Olmert, and Ariel Sharon before him, would have been forced to leave their positions immediately after the disclosure of the Greek island affair (Sharon and Olmert), or the real estate scandals (Olmert). And if they refused, the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem would have teemed with demonstrators who would not have let them resist.
The Torah, the Prophets and our sages have been no less critical of the people than of its leaders. The Israelites wandered 40 years in the desert because of the people's sins. Later, when the People of Israel insisted on not changing its ways, prophets arose who dared rebuke it, and they had the moral power to do so. Corruption, and especially extremism, the fateful results of which are commemorated on Tisha B'Av, are based mainly on the "sins of the public."
The rabbis and intellectuals of our day could be the rebuking prophets at the gates, were they to be elevated to the moral level of their forebears. But no one on the horizon seems to have the moral and mental powers or spirit needed to face the public and criticize its sins.
And if any of them is so inclined, he rebukes the leaders who are already being dealt with by the media, and not the entire public.
One who did dare was Haim Nahman Bialik (in a rather free translation): "His vision was clouded by the bright Satan of gold. We boast of thriving in a place with the empty roar of profiteering .... We have been blessed by the Jewish laborer who went to the village to renew the foundations of our life, our connection to the earth. And now, with the noise of the lie about the great wealth in the city, the laborer leaves the village, abandons the national outposts and takes up the easy life of the city....
"The great national fortress of Jewish labor is being destroyed before our eyes ... and when foreign workers fill our towns, who will protect us in time of storm and disaster ... and the terrible disintegration, party squabbles, gluttonous internecine hatred, acts of destruction around the famous case [the murder of Chaim Arlosoroff]."
"The yishuv is ill," the national poet summed up his rebuke in his speech of the same name. Anyone who sees a parallel between those days and our own is not mistaken.