Text size

Now that we're done oohing and aahing over Ehud Olmert's unusual speech at the Kadima convention, we're starting to digest it. With 15 repetitions of "I'm not popular" and 11 of "this is where my job is," it was definitely not Churchillian. Talking only about himself and his bitter fate, it was chiefly spin. The butcher at the slaughterhouse could say the same thing: "I'm not popular, but this is where my job is."

The correlation Olmert set up between his unpopularity and the quality of his work is ridiculous. Unpopularity did not descend on him out of the blue. Ninety-seven percent of the public thinks he is not doing the swell job he claims he is doing. In fact, making this association between unpopularity and all his so-called hard work has the opposite effect: Instead of calming the public down, it creates more worry. Is this how he plans to continue?

"As long as there is one child in Sderot who can't sleep at night for fear of Qassams, this is where my job is ... As long as Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev have not returned home, this is where my job is." With statements like these, questions are inevitable. You've had a year in office, so why are the Qassams still falling? We fought a war in Lebanon and 160 soldiers died. So why aren't the hostages home yet?

Olmert enumerated all his failures, and pulled our leg a little in the bargain.

If he thought that repeatedly declaring himself unpopular would make him popular, he was wrong. If he told the council he could make it safely to the end of his term, you can be sure he really hopes so. But when he spoke about the investigations against him and declared "I have nothing to hide," it only spurred us into thinking why people don't believe him.

I have been entrusted with the job of running the most complicated country in the world, and that is the only thing that matters to me, he said. I am not prepared to work according to the dictates of popularity. The State of Israel is my workplace. What do you prefer? A prime minister who cares about being popular, or a prime minister who fulfills his duty?

And then the Kadima ministers jump on him for being so arrogant - all except Shimon Peres, who praises Olmert to the high heavens. It's our workplace, too, they say. Our business is to keep Kadima in power, with or without Olmert.

Tzipi Livni may be deputy prime minister, but she and Olmert have been at odds now for a long time. She told me three months ago she was in favor of presenting the Palestinians with an initiative. She complained that Olmert would not let her schedule overseas meetings. Now the Palestinians have established a unity government, but instead of talking to them, Olmert is sticking to the hard-line approach. Like he says, it's his workplace.

But Israel is not just the headquarters of some politician. Israel is not just a workplace. Our future and our safety are at stake. Politicians may have a dozen different options, but for millions of Israeli citizens, the one and only option is a secure Israel.

What do they know about a prime minister who gets a pot of venom flung at him every morning, but manages to keep his cool and carry out his duties properly no matter what? Olmert asked.

David Grossman described the Olmert administration as a hollow government, but looming on the horizon is the possibility of a gaping hole, after the Winograd Committee presents its conclusions. With an unloved Benjamin Netanyahu, a squabbling Labor party and Kadima on the brink of collapse, we may end up with an Israel-style fourth republic.

With the Winograd Committee hanging over his head like a sword of Damocles, what Olmert needs right now is a step forward in the peace process. It could be talks with the Palestinian unity government, contacts with Syria or support for the Saudi initiative.

Last week, hundreds of thousands of children all over the country took part in bomb shelter drills, complete with gas masks. Are we preparing for a war scenario that could endanger the home front from Gush Dan to Eilat?

Olmert is teetering on the brink of a political abyss, and any terror attack or kidnapping will be blamed on him. Yes, it is his job to lead this country until his term is up. But a state is more than a workplace. It's where we live. Just a minor detail that seems to have slipped Olmert's mind in that speech of his.