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The ridding of chametz tarried this year. Instead of being carried out on the eve of Passover, it is slated to occur over the following months. The counting of the omer - between Passover and Shavuot - will be accompanied by testimonies from the Winograd Committee, the committee's interim report, the state comptroller's report on the Trade Ministry's Investments Center, and perhaps also a state comptroller's report regarding the house on Cremieux Street. Sometime after Shavuot, a state comptroller's report on the home front may be published, and there may be serious developments regarding Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson's Nili affair, and former finance minister Ehud Olmert's Bank Leumi affair.

The lessons of the past mandate caution: No one knows the precise timing or exact content of these publications that will agitate the state until the summer. Perhaps Olmert's sophisticated manipulation will succeed in dulling the teeth of the investigation into the Second Lebanon War. Perhaps some of his affairs will not yield unequivocal criminal findings. But the general picture will become clear: The man who appointed Amir Peretz as defense minister in order to appoint Hirchson as finance minister is an irreparable prime minister. The current national leadership is unworthy.

Israel's failure in the Second Lebanon War created a two-fold historic situation: The failure exposed Israel to greater dangers of renewed violence on several fronts, while creating a rare opportunity to correct the failures revealed in the government, national policy and the Israel Defense Forces.

The trauma of the summer of 2006 should have turned the post-war year into a year of rehabilitation, a year of penetrating national debate, of necessary governmental changes, of a revolution in values and a political turning point. This year, Israel should have embarked on a new path and opened a new chapter in its history.

Eight months have passed and nothing has happened. Two-thirds of the rehabilitation year has been wasted on Olmert's maneuvers to survive. Thus, the government is a bit less arrogant, but hollow as ever. The IDF is slightly better trained, but lacks the new spirit it requires to meet the challenge of the future.

The public discussion is bitter, petty and superficial. The policy lacks vision and is inconsistent. The national leadership is not doing what it must to prevent war - or to prepare for war. As a result, neither the government nor society, neither the army nor the home front, is prepared for the next war, while there is an increasing danger that this war is indeed approaching.

At Rosh Hashanah 2006, there was a chance for change. There was a profound understanding of the challenge, and there was real pressure on the government. However, the inclusion of Avigdor Lieberman in the government and the establishment of the Winograd Committee melted the therapeutic post-war moment and turned the precious rehabilitation year into wasted time.

For better or worse, this wasted time is about to come to an end. The harvest of the coming months (Winograd, the comptroller's reports, the police investigation) is about to bring the Olmert era to the moment of decision, and Israel to the next therapeutic moment. If the opportunity is missed again, Israel is liable to wind up in severe distress.

But if the public regains its composure, organizes and takes action, rehabilitation will be possible. We could begin the long march toward hope. Regardless of what State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, Eliyahu Winograd and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz have to say, the time has come for the public to have its say.