On July 12, 2006 the Olmert-Peretz government sealed its fate. The hasty, reckless decision the prime minister and the defense minister made that day turned their promising convergence government into a faltering war government.
Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz's decision to listen to Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and launch an air attack turned the government of civic hope they headed into a government of strategic deterioration. From that day until the present, Olmert and Peretz have been in vertigo. Despite their attempts to regain control, they're in a tailspin heading toward disaster.
Israelis have not forgotten the trauma of the summer of 2006. They have neither recovered from it nor have they forgotten who caused it. Olmert and Peretz's blundering, inappropriate performance since the war has merely increased the public's objection to them. The corruption affairs closing in on the Prime Minister's Office have added disgust to the basic loss of confidence. Most Israelis are sick and tired of the two, and are demanding a change.
And yet, so far Olmert and Peretz have managed to prevent change. They're holding on with the skin of their teeth, regardless of how preposterous and repulsive the spectacle. Shula Zaken's politician and Rachel Turjeman's politician have built a closed power system, courtesy of Avigdor Lieberman, to protect them from the Israeli public.
The political limpness of the iPod and talkback generation has caused the protest movements to die out. The unwillingness of recently-elected Knesset members to run for election again when the electorate is unlikely to vote for them, enabled Olmert and Peretz to enjoy a seemingly broad, stable coalition. The unwillingness on the part of Kadima members to deal with the fact that their party has been drained of content has enabled the prime minister to remain cloistered in his office, even after he lost all sympathy, confidence and sense of direction.
A cynical political system maintained its hollow government's existence even when it was clear that the shock of war had cut it off from reality and led to its reckless conduct.
Ariel Sharon ruled by exerting the pressure of a supportive public opinion on a hostile party, while in the last six months Olmert and Peretz have been ruling by cutting themselves off from hostile public opinion. This is how they avoided making a change. This is how the country came to be run by a callow, non-functional government, that cut itself off from the public, from reality and from any sense of responsibility.
The letter Ehud Barak faxed Eitan Cabel this week ended this severance. Barak's daring decision to run for his party's leadership abruptly changed the political scene. Now there is an agent who can bring about the change. It gave the urgent need for an alternative face, name and address.
In the coming months the renewed controversy over Barak, his character and his past will intensify. People of the lost left, who cannot admit that Barak exposed their stupidity during the 1990s, will not forget or forgive. People of the hallucinatory right, incapable of understanding the sophisticated way in which Barak is trying to advance national goals, will revile and scoff. But the broad, sober center, which has been let down by Kadima, may find new hope in the new Barak.
Therefore, there is tremendous potential in the low-key announcement of the former prime minister's candidacy. Barak's announcement not only puts into motion new political dynamics, which could bring the end of the Olmert-Peretz rule closer. It also points to the possibility of a second "big bang" in Israeli politics. If Barak does not blunder or trip himself up, he has good chances to turn the Labor Party in the long term into a large central movement, which will gather into it half of Kadima and become the future ruling party.
Everything is open, nothing is assured, but since the end of the war, we haven't had such a promising political week. Barak and Menachem Mazuz may bring Israel out of the Olmert-Peretz vertigo and set it back on a steady course.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now