After a tiring day of running around, and of courting and lobbying people, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's associates were able to report to the boss last night, cautiously, that things are under control on the political battlefield. Unless the Winograd report on the Second Lebanon War, which is being released today, packs a surprising punch that changes everything, no one in Kadima will raise the banner of mutiny and demand Olmert's dismissal.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is worried about getting sullied; Shaul Mofaz, the former defense minister and current transportation minister, is carrying around the weight of six years of neglecting the army; Public Security Minister Avi Dichter is loyal; and even if Housing and Construction Minister Meir Sheetrit says something - so what? With rivals like these, who needs friends?
But Olmert knows that they are just biding their time - not because of the failure of the war, but because they see him as a burden, an albatross, a political weight that is dragging them down to the depths.
The prime minister is liable to survive the draft report not just because of the confusion and helplessness pervading Kadima, but also because of the alternative: Benjamin Netanyahu. The Likud chairman is Olmert's life-saving drug.
No one in Kadima - or the coalition at large, at this stage - wants to shake up the system and bring about elections in which Netanyahu would be voted in as prime minister. Even Ehud Barak and Ami Ayalon, the leading candidates in the Labor primaries, won't take such a responsibility upon themselves. As long as Olmert survives, they will be with him - and if not him, then with Livni or Shimon Peres. Paradoxically, Barak and Ayalon prefer Olmert; it's better to be a strong defense minister serving under a weak prime minister.
If the Kadima revolt has indeed ended before it even began, that leaves the public at the center of attention. Will "the street" force the politicians to do something? There are such high expectations of a wave of public demonstrations that anything less than a mass protest of the kind held in the summer of 1982 will be deemed apathetic. The rally planned for Thursday at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv is meant to light the torch that will burn Olmert's seat out from under him. But here, too, there are problems.
Sources connected to the rally have complained about difficulties in getting people to attend and in raising money. In the meantime, the two most prominent politicians planning to participate in the event are Netanyahu - after all, it's basically his party - and Meretz-Yachad chairman Yossi Beilin. Many of Beilin's colleagues oppose his participation alongside Netanyahu.
Barak is also leaning toward not attending; he doesn't see himself as a sidekick. Today or tomorrow he is due to consult with the ministers who support him. Even if he doesn't show up at the demonstration, he'll make his position known about the report, about those responsible for the war, and most importantly: about what he plans to do if he wins the May 28 primaries.
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