In case you haven't yet noticed, we are in the midst of an era of prosperity, looking ahead to a rosy, promising future, and only the media is distorting the picture. You don't believe me? Read the interview recently given by Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert to Yedioth Ahronoth.
"I walk up and down the streets," relates Olmert, "and see high-rise buildings, landscaped plazas, bridges, tunnels and 21st-century industrial plants, and I am so proud. And what do I hear all around me? Only crying, moaning and complaints, especially from the media." In other words, if we only had different media, that were a bit more responsible, a bit more patriotic, everything would look different. Single mothers would not demonstrate, unemployed people whose benefits were cut would not exist, poorer children - well, no need to go on. There wouldn't be sick people who could not afford medicine, factories would not shut down, the ports would be open and there certainly wouldn't be horrific terrorist attacks on restaurants.
The patriotic media would tell us, to the sound of pounding drums, about the high-rise buildings and the bridges and the tunnels under construction - in the territories - and would interview Olmert at parties of Israel's moneyed class; there, among the splendorous scenes of plenty, it's a little hard to spot the harsh gray reality down below.
"I don't understand this pathetic need for luxuries," says Olmert. "Was it easier 40 years ago?" Forty years ago, we were among the leading countries of the world, and now we are trailing behind. But Olmert pronounces, in pathos: "We have now become a national and economic and defense power, unlike at any other period in our history."
What economic strength? The one that brought the standard of living down 8 percent in the past three years and widened the gaps between rich and poor?
What defense power? The one that is unable to protect innocent citizens having lunch in a restaurant? The one that for all the targeted assassinations, missiles and planes has to defend itself with a fence? Or the one that is so entirely dependent on the words of the leader of a "friendly power?"
Olmert likes rich people. He supports a scandalous grant of NIS 70 million to Mosie Wertheim, the owner of Coca Cola Israel, in exchange for transfer of his bottling plant from Bnei Brak to Ashkelon. He wants to enlarge the budget of the Chief Scientist by a billion shekels, "because it will produce $15 billion in exports." But if that is so good and so certain, why aren't all the investors in the world standing in line? He is in favor of awarding building rights in Atlit worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Dankner family, and in favor of enlarging the real-estate compensation granted to farmers, in opposition to the attorney general's position. He says he is "very much in favor of infrastructures," but at a cabinet meeting proposed cutting back on them.
Olmert does not make any connection between the deterioration in security and the economic crisis. It was he that suggested to Netanyahu in 1996 that the Western Wall tunnel be opened, and the two men thereby caused a new eruption of rioting in the territories, suspension of the peace process, destruction of relations with the Palestinians, renewal of the conflict - and a resultant steep decline in investments, freeze of economic growth and a sharp increase in unemployment in the 1996-99 period.
He enthusiastically supported construction in Har Homa, including expropriation of Palestinian lands, and the construction of an extremist Jewish neighborhood in Ras al-Amud, in the heart of an Arab area in East Jerusalem - which is like poking a finger in their eye. Under his tenure, Jerusalem became a focus of conflict and hatred instead of a showcase of coexistence. And now he is advocating sharp responses against Assad. What a macho man.
And so that we all understand how sensitive he is, he tells his interviewers that he intends to meet with Shari Arison in Miami and try to persuade her to come back. He'll tell her that "no one can guarantee that the media in America won't hound her, and what will she do then, flee to Zimbabwe?" Such a tender and enticing appeal will no doubt send Arison running to pack her suitcases, because who, after all, wants suddenly to find themselves in Zimbabwe?
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