The impression given these past few days is that the prime minister has no intention of making life easy for the "peace camp" by switching places with the foreign minister. If his colleagues send him home, Ehud Olmert will drag down the entire government with him. The crowds that will rush to Rabin Square should know: Whoever wants to get rid of Olmert must be ready to accept Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, and to hell with the Annapolis process and the Bush vision. The prime minister will not take this lying down, allowing everyone, including history, to walk right over him.
On the other hand it is possible to make things more difficult: If the prime minister genuinely believes that without a two-state solution "Israel is finished," as he has said, then one would expect that he would sacrifice his personal interest for the benefit of the diplomatic process. Is there no other leader capable of filling his shoes and leading the government in the same direction - with determination, wisdom and courage?
Well, this question was answered by the leaders themselves. According to their testimony before the Winograd Committee, not one of those pretenders to the throne has stood up to the test of leadership.
The failure of the Second Lebanon War has more than three fathers, two of whom have already vacated their posts. The prime minister is certainly the first father, but the first among equals. Elected officials, some of whom are sevenfold more experienced and knowledgeable than Olmert, failed to fulfill their basic duty to their voters. There were those who voted against themselves, and others who knew what to ask but opted to stay silent, while others did not even bother to ask questions. This did not only happen during the final 60 hours of the war. This is how they behaved from the first to the last Katyusha.
Let's start with Shimon Peres, who at the time held the post of vice premier and in the past had served as prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister. "Were it up to me, I would not have gone to this war," Peres said. And what did the most senior Israeli statesman do to prevent the war? "A minister needs to be very, very loyal," Peres explained to the committee. "I systematically avoided being critical, neither directly nor indirectly. I thought that it is my duty not to express criticism."
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was quick to recognize the difficulty in achieving a military victory without major losses. She told the committee that the discussion in the international community "should have been held on the second day of the war, and [then] to get out of there." Nonetheless, during the crucial vote, Livni opted to swim with the tide and voted in favor of a ground operation.
Haim Ramon admitted that his personal ties with Olmert influenced his vote in favor of the operation: "Even if you are sometimes uncomfortable with it ... you must always give him [the prime minister] support .... It was required both because of my fundamental point of view and of course the very close relationship with the prime minister."
The previous defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, a rival of Olmert, also voted in favor out of loyalty to his colleagues in uniform. "During war it is of very great importance to say your opinion once, and I did speak my mind, but the second time, you should not come out against the defense establishment."
The former head of the Shin Bet, Avi Dichter, testified that he had reservations about the attack on the Dahiya neighborhood in Beirut, but "it was not a popular thing during that meeting to oppose that attack."
Ophir Pines-Paz confessed: "I thought it was not appropriate at the time when the IDF was fighting to allow a bitter disagreement at the political level [to occur]. Therefore, even though I was dead against the last ground offensive, in the end I abstained."
His colleague in the cabinet, Eli Yishai, who also abstained argued: "If my vote could have tipped the balance, I would even have voted against. But in view of the fact that it could not be decisive, I opted to preserve the solidarity .... My role is to support those at the top, not to tie their hands."
We are left with the present defense minister, Ehud Barak, who at the time of the war carried on with his trip around the world. To his good fortune, no committee was ever set up to examine who was responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 Israelis and 4,000 Palestinians during the second intifada. Barak, like his successor Ariel Sharon, did not answer for the destruction of the Palestinian Authority. He has also not given up the "no partner" legacy, which carried Hamas to victory.
In no way is Olmert alone. The truth is that, unfortunately, there is no one at the moment in the leadership of the peace camp who is more suitable than him.
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