If Ehud Olmert doesn't declare now, after the Netanyahu-Lieberman alliance, then he is just the same fibbing opportunist as all the others and his protestations about peace and Israel's survival are about as meaningful as Bibi's Bar-Ilan speech.
(I presume that any idiots– like me – who thought there might be a smidgen of sincerity in the Bar-Ilan speech are now finally weaned of that naivete.)
Olmert's opportunism, moreover, will not serve him well. He will never have a better opportunity to return to politics as leader of the peace camp. If Netanyahu and Lieberman are enabled – by lack of an effective pro-peace electoral bloc – to win big this time, their combined party will become the new Mapai, the party of power for years to come.
Bibi, at his jumpy, hasty worst, may have made the blunder of a lifetime. Transfixed by polls, he has lost sight of perspective.
It is as though Nicolas Sarkozy had allied with Marine Le Pen (or Chirac, at the time, with her father, Jean-Marie). A winning combo on paper. After all, a lot of French voters supported Le Pen's party. But the French president would have consigned himself, in the eyes of the world, to obloquy. And in the end that judgment would have poisoned his standing inside France, too. He would have trampled on the principles of the decent right by making common cause with the fascistic, racist right.
Sarkozy, reading the polls that predicted his defeat, never for one moment dreamed of that dishonorable course.
Mutatis mutandis, that may well be what Bibi has brought down on his own head and the heads of decent people in his Likud Party.
Whom has he gotten into political alliance with? Such pillars of parliamentary democracy, pluralism and plain old decency as Anastassia Michaeli? He doesn't even know yet. Lieberman has yet to vouchsafe to the nation and to the world the composition of his new Knesset list of weirdoes.
Lieberman himself, as we will now doubtless hear ad nauseam, is no fascist and no thug. He is, in fact, an urbane, charming and clever man, inclined to pragmatism rather than to fanaticism. But he has sullied himself, and sullied Israel too, by his uninhibited recourses, time after time, to the meanest and most pernicious sentiments sloshing in the viscera of a nation in conflict.
Is there no limit to the elasticity of the backbones of Meridor, Begin and the handful of other Likud democrats? Is Mickey Eitan the only righteous tzaddik in Sodom?
For Olmert, if indeed he is an apostle of peace and not just another political crook plotting a comeback, the union of Likud with Lieberman provides the perfect platform. No-one on earth can be in any doubt about where Lieberman stands on peace with the Palestinian Authority. He's against it, and has said so, clearly and unequivocally innumerable times on every public and international platform. Netanyahu's claims over these part four years that such declarations by his foreign minister do not represent his government rang hollow when made. Now they will ring ridiculous – if a credible peace candidate challenges them frontally, determinedly, incessantly.
By returning to the area, in whatever party-political configuration, and making that challenge, with the cogency and proven credentials that only he can project, Olmert can dictate the agenda in this election.
His entering the race could help consolidate a blocking bloc that would deprive the new right-wing mega-party of a ruling majority.
Even if that scenario proves too sanguine, Olmert's entry would force the electorate – the disparate, divided majority of Israelis who still want the two-state solution – to face up to the single issue that will actually determine the future of the Jewish-democratic Zionist state. Determine, that is, if it has a future.