Political Animal / Whom I wouldn't vote for
There is nothing wrong with doing business and making a profit, but we expect someone with a great deal of wealth, like Barak, to show a great deal of concern for his subjects as well.
1. Not for Barak. I wouldn't vote for Ehud Barak. I happen to believe him when he says he's changed, but it's not necessarily for the better. If once we knew about his passion for cheap watches, which he would take apart and reassemble, and then take apart again, today he has a passion for time itself, precious time from his point of view, because time is money. During the past six years, since he was first exiled from the premiership, he has earned about NIS 30 million, as reported by Gidi Weitz and Uri Blau last week in Haaretz Magazine.
Al Gore also became free that same year, 2001, when he lost the presidency to George W. Bush, although he received more votes. Conspiracies in Florida and strategems in Washington stole the birthright from him. Gore refuses to become immersed in the past and in depression, refuses to become mired in the injustice done to him and refuses to run again, to the disappointment of millions of supporters. Since the defeat, he has been doing less for his personal benefit and more for the entire village, the global village. Instead of seeking a second chance for himself, he is seeking the last chance for the planet: If we don't make an urgent effort to reverse climate change, the world will return to chaos.
During his long campaign, Gore has not been selling himself with the help of public relations people. He is selling the inhabitants of the world an alarm bell with a lantern of hope, in one kit. And he is doing all this - free, concerned and happy - without putting a dollar into his own pocket. He donates all the income from his film, his new book and his hundreds of lectures to environmental organizations; if only we had an Al Gore.
Barak, when he became free, could also have devoted himself voluntarily to lofty issues - he didn't have to run away. He could have devoted himself to education, to abandoned citizens in the north and south of the country, during times of peace and times of war; he could have cared for the old woman in the hospital corridor, who has long since died alone in her home, and whose body was found with an empty basket of medications at her head. There is nothing wrong with doing business and making a profit, but we expect someone with a great deal of wealth like Barak to show a great deal of concern for his subjects as well. Because how will his subjects know that he has really changed, that he really cares? There's no need to overdo it, of course, but he could have wasted one hour a week, only one hour, for heaven's sake, in a school in Sderot or a hospital in Nahariya.
He preferred, though, to open doors to kosher and less-kosher business deals, as though he were a guard at a nightclub or a brawny doorman at the Akirov Towers. And he collected a commission for his labors, a nice tip.
Weitz and Blau also report on a special device in his office, which "regulates the temperature of cigars," and thus preserves them. I managed to look into this and to learn something: Every good cigar, like good wine, has its own optimal storage temperature. Here comes the cigar coalition: Olmert, Bibi and Barak are like Indian chiefs, who smoke together, but their common pipe is not necessarily one of peace; and we are the Indians. And one doesn't threaten Barak's supporters with a cigarette belonging to Bibi, and vice versa.
Barak headquarters refuses to submit a report about his business activities, claiming the right to privacy. He wants support, but refuses to give an account for the sake of transparency and disclosure. His headquarters even "expresses surprise that Weitz and Blau's article does not deal with the business and international activity of additional candidates." And that is an accusation typical of those caught red-handed - it's not only me, it's them too. An entire world, an underworld of the top 1000th percentile, makes a living from this accusation.
A close personal friend of Barak, former deputy defense minister Weizman Shiri, speaks in his defense: "I prefer a prime minister who comes to the job not hungry. Who comes with financial security, and with the knowledge that nobody can entice him with all kinds of favors." When the silence of Ehud B. is thundering, his muses are also silent and thundering, and there is no doubt that Weizman Shiri is a muse.
I don't even want to think about Barak's first candidacy, before he made his big money, when he was still hungry and prey to temptations and favors. Who knows what went on there, in the office, behind closed doors, even before Barak began to open doors. And I don't want to think what will happen in a second term, when all business friends come calling and the smoke of their cigars fills the room; who will be able to see the fire through the smoke; who will see what package was included there in the handshake.
Were I the state comptroller I would already start to prepare; I'd roll up my sleeves and sharpen my pencils. After Olmert will come Barak or Bibi, and there will be a lot of work. Experience teaches that these hungry people are never satisfied. Bibi continues to compensate himself for a deprived childhood in an ostracized Revisionist home, and Barak will continue to compensate himself for the deprivations of a sensitive child in the kibbutz, who slept in a children's house.
2. And not for Sarkozy. I would not have voted for Nicolas Sarkozy for the presidency of France. Leaders who come down hard on the weak, on minorities and immigrants, are not my glass of champagne; nor are those who are pushing Turkey out of the European Union and into the arms of Islamic extremism; nor are presidents and prime ministers who hang out with billionaires and spend their vacations on their yachts.
But for now, Sarkozy is proving to be a pleasant surprise. He was just elected, and he is already changing the face of France and breathing new life into it. After running against a woman, Segolene Royal, and defeating her, he has appointed seven women as ministers. There has never been such a thing in France, which only 60 years ago gave women the right to vote, and where only about 14 percent of the members of the National Assembly are women.
And another thing: His new cabinet includes 15 ministers in all, the smallest cabinet since World War II. And something else: His justice minister, the first French Muslim minister in the history of France, is a woman named Rachida Dati, whose father Mubarak came from Morocco and whose mother Fatima came from Algeria; Dati has seven sisters and four brothers.
And one more thing: Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is one of the leaders of the defeated Socialist party, the founder of Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontieres) and one of the more popular politicians in the country; the French revolution is in full swing.
Here, though, as we know, there is nothing new - what was is what is, only worse. Suppose that the Second Lebanon War had not broken out, and suppose that the finance minister had not resigned, and suppose that no investigations had been initiated into the activities of the prime minister and many of his colleagues, and suppose that the government's helplessness in the face of Qassams and Katyushas had not been exposed - let's keep on supposing again and again - even then the Olmert government would be an embarrassing one: It is fat and overblown beyond any necessity - 25 ministers. France is governed by 15, and here even 25 are insufficient.
Israel's 31st government has almost no minister who is suited to his position in terms of abilities and experience, and most of them were chosen because of personal, party or coalition commitments. The result is a nondescript and undistinguished group.
People are elected to the premiership in order to make changes, to repair things, and the first 100 days are also the last 100 days if, instead of seizing the mission by the horns, one takes hold of the altar instead. That is how to create a government, as in France; and that is how not to create a government, as in Israel.