Because of One Person

If he does not resign before the Knesset votes for early elections, he will be remembered for his pettiness rather than his achievements.

The vote today in the Knesset in favor of bringing the elections forward was forced on the parties and the country by Ehud Olmert, for whom the good of the country is apparently not of major importance at the moment. This is a personal vote of no-confidence in the prime minister, because there is no ideological or political reason for early elections, except for the desire to replace Olmert.

There is at present no substantial issue causing disagreement between members of the coalition, which would necessitate early elections, and there is apparently even agreement on the most important questions, of a kind that did not exist in previous governments. The Kadima-Labor government could have served out its term had its head not been caught red-handed, had there not been "significant evidence," in the opinion of the state prosecutor, that he received favors. The entire nation saw and heard the testimony of Morris Talansky, and the memory has not evaporated. To date, Olmert has not succeeded in providing an alternative version.

The prime minister has lost the confidence of the government, the Knesset and the public, once because of the Winograd Committee report, and once because of Talansky's testimony, but the loss of confidence is personal, not diplomatic or political. Therefore, it was reasonable to assume that the prime minister would agree to resign and enable another candidate from Kadima to serve in his place. Had Olmert only agreed to set a date for primaries in his party, the Labor Party would immediately have removed its support for the law to move up the elections. But Olmert reached the conclusion that primaries mean being deposed, and apparently decided that he prefers to oust the government rather than having the party oust him.

Had Kadima functioned as a party with institutions rather than an incidental slate of candidates, it probably would have convened its institutions and voted on its future. Had Kadima not behaved like a party that was established by Ariel Sharon for one-time use, the past days would have been used to create pressure on Olmert, instead of on Ehud Barak and Shas. There is a growing gap between the positions voiced by the leaders of Kadima privately and in public.

The country is going to the polls not because the Labor Party preferred to support moving up the Knesset elections, but because a majority of MKs, including some who could lose their Knesset seats, decided that such a significant suspicion of corruption in the leader of the country is intolerable. Olmert for his part decided that anything is preferable to resigning. Maybe something will happen in the interim. Maybe the captives will cause the envelopes to be forgotten. Maybe Shas will receive a prize.

We can assume that expert minds are feverishly seeking an honorable way out, but there is no honor in an insistence on bringing on elections as an act of revenge. Anyone who confuses the good of the country with his own personal good, time after time, is not worthy of heading it even if no indictment is submitted against him. Anyone who is willing to give up the diplomatic route that he led as long as nobody else leads it in his stead is in effect voting no-confidence in himself. If he does not resign before the Knesset votes for early elections, he will be remembered for his pettiness rather than his achievements.