In a place not fraught with prime ministerial candidates, suspended Kadima MK Tzachi Hanegbi is the consummate choice. And of all the people who changed their ways and were born anew, Tzachi is the most new and improved. Nobody is better suited to become prime minister, not even Kadima's Shaul Mofaz.
We're not talking about someone who'll hit Arabs with iron chains or threaten someone with a pistol during an argument about a parking space. Of course, he won't climb up onto a monument and spew his wrath at soldiers. Needless to say, he won't unplug the microphone while a prime minister is in the middle of a speech. Of course, he won't stand on balconies that overlook public squares and help incite rallies that threaten democracy. Far be it from him to receive financial incentives from nonprofit organizations so he can soberly carry out his parliamentary duties. None of this is in his political repertoire; he is destined for greatness.
Moreover, who more than Hanegbi realizes that political-appointment cronyism is forbidden? And now he knows that it doesn't pay for a minister to perjure himself in writing and in oral testimony, and to abide by falsehood in the hope that it will become accepted fact. The perfect candidate has had to learn so many lessons. And who can compete with his contrition and vie in the political arena in his stead?
This is not just a perfect candidate - Hanegbi is also the consensual candidate of choice. When the time comes, nobody in the political arena will refuse to anoint him the next savior. Intellectuals have also blown air into his sails. Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Dalia Itzik - both coalition and opposition - have complete faith in him. They will recite for us the who's who of all those who vouch for Tzachi.
He now has to withdraw for a year or two, until the next elections. There is no disagreement about whether he will return. True, the court ruled that his perjury conviction consists of moral turpitude, but in this country we have the habit of lowering the condemned from the gallows before it's too late. As in the case of former Shas leader Aryeh Deri, we can say to Hanegbi: With your conviction, a window of oppor-turpitude-ities has opened. Will the same window open for Ehud Olmert?
Of course, there is the issue of what he might do over the next two years. If he wants to work as a taxi driver rather than the director of a floating casino, he'll have a problem. People who want to be cabdrivers need to present certificates of integrity proving that they don't have a criminal record. For the same reason, he can't work as an usher responsible for enforcing the law against cigarette smoking in public places. Nor can he work as a veterinarian, under the doctors and veterinarians law.
All doors of employment are shut to people with criminal records listed on the police's shady computers. It often happens that someone doesn't have a clue that this criminal status follows him everywhere - it can apply to someone who was never convicted in court, who was simply questioned decades ago for a matter long forgotten, or who perhaps was detained for possessing two grams of marijuana.
It's not easy obtaining figures on how many cases belong to this category: People for whom criminal files were closed, yet remain open. My Haaretz colleague Yaniv Kubovich made an estimate for me: There are around 480,000 such listings in databases, to the detriment of many citizens who are completely innocent.
So, in this situation, you can't drive a cab, but by all means, you can run the country. We'll do our utmost to protect the safety of a few passengers in a cab, but what protects a state with 7 million citizens?
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