Five Comments on the Situation

On executive secretaries, the settlement freeze and terror attack drills.

1. Apropos the unbearable ease with hich Shula Zaken was arrested at the airport after a 17-hour flight, while the main suspect, her ex-boss Ehud Olmert, is free as a bird − Channel 2 broadcast a report about executive secretaries on Saturday night. The viewer was shown veteran and novice secretaries, secretaries who fulfill key roles with various bosses, loyal secretaries like Perry Mason’s Della Street, and bosses who spend more time with their secretaries than with their wives. There were also secretaries who enjoy their power more than an affair with their boss, though there is no shortage of those who like it the other way around.

During my work I have met some of the toughest secretaries working for various ministers. When Ariel Sharon was prime minister, his official secretary could be bypassed by means of his loyal party secretary. On the other hand, some rigid secretaries wouldn’t pass you on to the boss without demanding, “What does this concern?” Very soon I found a way of defeating those arrogant secretaries. “Do you really want to know? Well, your boss and I have a mutual friend and she’s now pregnant. I want to talk to him about who’s going to pay.” Very quickly I’d have the minister on the line.

2. Next month the Bar-Ilan speech will be a year old, and neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his cabinet have lifted a finger to carry out the promise of two states for two peoples. Meanwhile, the Palestinian leaders are threatening to declare an independent state within temporary borders. Not a bad idea. Israel, too, is an independent state within temporary borders.

On September 26, the 10-month construction freeze that Bibi said would “not last one day longer” is coming to an end. But in secret talks it has been agreed that Israel will appear to resume construction in Jerusalem, but not actually do it. Complicated? Not really. This is why they chose “proximity talks.” To agree not to do what they are doing, and vice versa. The conclusion is, the faster they start direct negotiations, the better the chances of success. Talks about talks are bound to fail.

3. I was one of the tens of thousands stuck two weeks ago in a three-hour traffic jam in the heart of Tel Aviv. During the clog we learned it was a police drill simulating a situation in which a bunch of terrorists takes over a shopping mall or two. My summary of the story is that if a pre-arranged drill caused such a brouhaha, a real event would be disastrous. Ambulances would not be able to pass and the police themselves would be stuck. It reminds me of the joke about the Polish police − while reenacting the murder of a woman on the street, 10 Polish police officers were killed.

4. Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi’s statement that “Israel’s existence is not self-evident and we must keep protecting it from every enemy while maintaining a democratic society,” explains why Defense Minister Ehud Barak hastened to announce the end of the chief of staff’s term. The popular Ashkenazi, who is worshipped by his soldiers, is hinting that he is heading for politics.

5. When Charles de Gaulle was elected to his last term as French president, some observers asked whether at his advanced age there wasn’t a risk his mind might betray him. De Gaulle, as was his custom, addressed “his people” in a television broadcast, promising they had nothing to worry about as far as his age was concerned. As soon as he felt that his mind was betraying him he would resign, he said. The satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine immediately provided doctors’ opinions to the effect that if the president became demented he would not know what was happening and would not remember his promise to resign.

Why was I reminded of this? Not because our president is acting like the head of state, interfering in politics, warning us not to underestimate the Iranians and warning Iran not to underestimate our capability and the like. It’s because he crossed the line when for an entire day he turned the President’s Residence into a stage for comedian Eil Yatzpan’s show, which was broadcast on television.

Yatzpan embarrassed the president’s guests − who included the Swiss ambassador and the governor of the Bank of Israel − by talking gibberish to them. Yatzpan, who was made up to look like Shimon Peres, talked to the real Peres, and made a mockery of the Israel Defense Forces parade and our defense officials. In the old days, when he was called “Shimon publicity,” Peres argued that there was no good publicity or bad publicity − only publicity. The elderly Peres has not yet kicked that habit.