Ehud Olmert is the new etrog (citron). Not a day goes by that he isn't examined to make sure he is complete and unblemished. Is the prime minister also one of those etrogs with a dubious fragrance and a bland taste? Some swear to his innocence: He is serious, has learned from his mistakes and corrected them, he means what he says, is emerging from the Western Wall tunnel and is seeing the light after 40 years of darkness. And there are those who continue to be suspicious: Has he really changed his stripes, will he keep his promises, is he sincere? Even senior members of Meretz, the strictest purists of them all, are said to be considering turning him into an etrog and joining his government with the departure of Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman.
How long will this foolish debate regarding Olmert's sincerity continue? How long will people continue to write about his intentions as opposed to his deeds, as though the pundits had insight into his psyche? Why not let the facts on the ground speak for or against him, and why not let the fingers in the Knesset and the cabinet go after the facts and not replace them?
It's true that this week Olmert said that the failure to evacuate the outposts is an Israeli disgrace, but it is easier to be disgraced than to evacuate, easier to be ashamed than to uproot. It is therefore recommended that we wait until the evacuation of 100 outposts as a first stage, and only then, next Sukkot or the Sukkot after that, once again examine the etrog to make sure it's not a lulav (palm branch).
Some of the Olmertologists are amazed by his ability to survive in a hostile environment. They hold their breath, admiring the tightrope walker who manages not to fall; even the Winograd report won't bring him down.
It is not his acrobatic abilities that are saving Olmert from falling - the rescuer is opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Fear of Netanyahu has struck the political establishment, and the weekly surveys only reinforce it: Anyone who doesn't want Olmert will get Netanyahu, and there is great panic. The surveys' findings now remain the last obstacle to early elections. If Netanyahu did not exist as a scarecrow for horrified birds, Olmert would have had to invent him, because it is only thanks to Netanyahu that the government exists; Netanyahu is today a lucky charm for a long life in the government.
The fear of Netanyahu is justified. The very thought that he will soon return makes one shudder. They are afraid, the politicians, as are many ordinary citizens. But fear itself is not recommended over the long term, because fear is a disease and not a cure.
Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are the ones responsible for this situation, because they were unable to convince people that they are not Netanyahu: The three are too similar in the eyes of the general public, so why not prefer the original to his clones? To embark on a war unknowingly and flee responsibility, to expand settlements rather than evacuate them, to conduct useless negotiations, to harm the poor and help the rich, to reopen the Ministry for Religious Affairs, to humiliate teachers and professors, to increase the burden on students and harass the judges in Jerusalem - to do all this Netanyahu is sufficient and his successors are superfluous. For the purposes of an inferior personal example as well, Netanyahu will do.
If the surveys reflect reality and if people here really do want Netanyahu - they'll get him. No delaying tactics will prevent the calamity. The public will get an edict that it is willing to tolerate.
What's the use of another conflicted year full of tactics? Will it turn Olmert into a crowd pleaser? Will it give Barak what has been taken away from him? Will peace come? Will those who reject Netanyahu because of his shortcomings get rid of their own shortcomings? What miracles exactly are expected to occur in the near future?
And perhaps, nevertheless, the miracle will occur and suddenly it will turn out that it's not only the three of them and nobody else; perhaps someone will ripen, an unblemished apple, and there will be no more need for etrogs? War against Netanyahu will not be waged by stratagems, but by elections.
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