A Fresh Count

As Ehud Olmert is set to fill the position of prime minister, a word of advice: Don't try to be a Ben Gurion-like figure.

Good morning, Ehud Olmert. This morning is no ordinary morning. This morning is this morning. From this day forth you, Ehud Ben Mordechai and Bella Olmert, are the prime minister of Israel.

You know full well, Mr. Prime Minister, that your selection was the result of massive spin. The one elected in the 2006 elections is not Ehud Olmert but rather the one carrying on Sharon's path. But you are not the one carrying on Sharon's path. You are another. In every way and matter, you are another. Had you stood before the voter without the Adler-mask of the one carrying on Sharon's path, you would not have been elected. You would have received less votes than the head of the Pensioners Party. Rafi Eitan is far closer to the spirit of Sharon and the temper of Sharon than you.

You know full well, Mr. Prime Minister, that your selection was to a great extent unfair. Had the Israeli media done its job faithfully, you would not have been elected. Your arrogance, your colorful lifestyle, your appointments, the affairs connected with you and your failure as mayor of Jerusalem would have prevented your election. But you are after all the most networked politician in Israel. You have at your disposal a safety net of several of the newspaper owners, and you have at your disposal a safety net of several of the newspaper editors, and you have at your disposal a safety net of many of the senior journalists. These nets did their part. They caused part of the Israeli media outlets to operate in the election campaign not as your critics, but as your security guards. If Sharon was a precious citron in cotton wool, you were a diamond in a safe. From every quarter, your well-being and comfort were looked after. You were led to the prime minister's bureau in an investigation-proof limousine.

You know full well that your selection was to a great extent arbitrary. You are intelligent, you are sharp and you are a quick decision-maker. But nothing in your past has prepared you properly for the high office. You haven't in your possession a single real action that attests to your being worthy to be the leader of a nation. And you are fearless. Not just arrogant but fearless. The combination of leaderly inexperience and leaderly frivolity render you a captain destined for disaster.

But all that is behind us. The votes have been counted, the Knesset members elected, the decision determined. And as prime minister of Israel, you are entitled to turn over a new leaf. You are entitled to a fresh count. You are entitled to a hundred days' grace period. Grace requires it, the new title also requires it. In the past hundred days, you made countless mistakes. You declared victory prematurely and publicized a baseless withdrawal plan and commited yourself to an impossible timetable. You thereby demonstrated that you are more Ehud Barak than Ariel Sharon. If you do not want the length of your term to equal the length of Barak's term, you must learn to listen to criticism, draw lessons and reach conclusions. For your own good, and ours, you must change.

Behave more modestly, Mr. Prime Minister. Be not in haste. Do not go out for grand measures. Converge your convergence plan into reasonable and sane proportions. Give it the political dimensions it lacks. Be very careful on your trips to Washington. Do not give George Bush everything before you've received anything. Do not commit to a unilateral withdrawal prior to the toppling of Hamas. Conduct negotiations with the international community centered on Israeli demands, not Israeli concessions. Remember Sharon. Do it in the spirit of Sharon. You were elected in his name.

Ehud Olmert, you are there at a fateful moment. You are there when Iran has to be stood up to. You are there when the land has to be divided. You are there in the face of a gigantic mission. You are the not-Ben-Gurion tasked with a Ben-Gurion mission. So on this morning every thinking Israeli must hope for your success. Every thinking Israeli must pray that you find your way. Go forth in strength, Mr. Prime Minister.