1. When Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister, they called him Houdini, after the famous magician who could free himself from iron shackles while locked in a box submerged in water. The real Houdini died while performing one of his diving tricks, or so they say. But the magic of our local magician petered out when he was trounced in the elections by Ehud Barak and ran off to make money, leaving his party licking its wounds.
Since returning to political life and joining the government, he has honestly earned the title of Mr. Mistake. He has never missed an opportunity to miss the opportunities coming his way. As finance minister, he was successful even by global standards, but character-wise, he was the same old Bibi. He set out to undermine Sharon. In practice, he supported the disengagement but then tried to topple Sharon with an ugly putsch, only to scamper home with his tail between his legs.
After all that, he handed back the finance portfolio and quit the government. When Netanyahu instructed the Likud Knesset faction to sabotage the appointments of Roni Bar-On and Ze'ev Boim, Sharon bid the Likud goodbye and went off to found Kadima. He emptied the party of its best and brightest, leaving Bibi to stew in his own juice in the company of a band of Herut-style extremists.
Looking at what happened to Sharon, Bibi is probably kicking himself. If he had stayed in the government and been loyal to Sharon, Kadima would never have come about. It would have been him, not Olmert, who would be prime minister today, as "Sharon's heir and successor." Once a fumbler, always a fumbler, even when your opponent is comatose.
2. The fate of Shinui lies somewhere between tragedy and burlesque. The longer Tommy Lapid sat in the opposition, the more he looked like the wise guy from "Popolitika," except his jokes weren't funny any longer, and his routines fell flat. Poor Avraham Poraz, a gentle soul, was almost in tears when some political unknown stepped in and swiped second place from him. One threatened to quit Shinui and the other threatened to leave politics altogether.
The nation has not declared a 7-day mourning period since Lapid and Poraz's threats. On the contrary, we have seen quite a few signs of gloating. Lapid is now paying for his arrogance. Mainly, though, he is paying for the hatred he sowed toward the ultra-Orthodox and Mizrahim. Of course, Shinui has chalked up a number of achievements. Closing the Religious Affairs Ministry and ending the government's dependence on Shas are examples. And to its credit, Shinui has brought a touch of integrity to the political system.
What Lapid failed to understand is that the bulk of Israelis are both traditional and Mizrahi. It was wrong to be condescending to these sectors. It was also a mistake to quit the government over a budget of a few hundred million shekels allocated to United Torah Judaism - a mere crumb compared to what this country wastes. Freelancers and politics don't mix. Because freelancers leave holes. It's a fact. Kadima stole the center from Shinui and left the cupboard bare. Shinui is like the proverbial bee that stings once - and dies.
3. If no one is suspected of murdering the prime minister, the call for a commission to investigate whether he received the proper medical treatment is needless, if not downright harmful. There is no doubt in my mind that Sharon's doctors, some of them internationally acclaimed experts, did the best they could to treat him and save his life. Despite public statements to the effect that they saw before them a person whose life was in danger, and not a prime minister, there is no question that having a national leader in their care magnified their sense of responsibility. If they knew about the vascular condition Sharon suffered from, I'm sure they chose the option they felt was right. Maybe they made a mistake. Maybe they didn't. Such things happen. And what if they didn't give him blood thinners and another clot appeared? There is no insurance against medical error, especially in a field as complicated as neuro-vascular disease. I don't believe the doctors lied. From the moment they said his condition was "serious but stable," which they repeated over and over, the severity of the diagnosis was clear. As for why they let him go home so soon after the first stroke, that's another story. For a big cheese like Arik, it was politically important to show that he was sound of body and mind. And how much more so for his team of strategic advisers. But what can you do when the greatest strategist of them all - the one upstairs - has an agenda of his own. The last word will be his.
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