Political Animal / A Matter of Character

Disdain spells the end for a politician, and therefore there is not much importance to the question as to when exactly the end will come; it?s already here.

Greetings to you, Ehud Olmert. It's me here, your partner in the war against corruption. Perhaps you still remember, it was 30 years ago. I happen to remember what we said to one another: Corruption - we said - starts small and will end up flourishing and endangering the country. Immediately afterward you became very busy, you tended to your homes and you didn't have time to continue our struggle, and corruption really did rear its head, and we bowed our heads with a feeling of shame and anxiety.

A few days ago, a mutual friend told me that she happened to meet you. You told her that you had stopped reading my articles; they bore you because all I do is attack you all the time. There's something to that. You also offered our friend a personal-psychological explanation for my writing: Yossi envies me - you explained - and envy is having a negative effect on his writing. Where is Yossi today and where am I, you added. There's something to that too, I'll admit.

The truth will out: You, Olmert, are a prime minister, whereas I have little to do. I sit closed up in my house, cut off from people, the telephone rings only rarely, and the only thing I have to call my own is a desk; definitely cause for envy.

But on second thought, I will reply to Olmert in a manner that befits his foolishness: Is there any reasonable person of sound mind who would want to enter your narrow, tight shoes and become mired in the swamp? Is there any normal person who would want to switch places with you in your situation before the report, and even more so - after it? Who would be crazy enough to want to be a prime minister like you; who until the small hours of the night - your smallest hours - is preoccupied with only one issue: his personal survival? It's true that I'm well acquainted with people who got up one morning and felt that they wanted to lead a nation, but they didn't want to be Ehud Olmert; that's all they need. And there's a difference of heaven and earth, of heaven and hell, between being prime minister and being Olmert.

In spite of what you told our friend, I'm sure that you read every word, and therefore I will add: What has happened to you is the worst thing that can happen to a person, and especially to a person who is also a politician. Every politician has friends and enemies, he has supporters and opponents - sometimes more supporters and sometimes more opponents. Public opinion is fickle; whereas you no longer have supporters, but only a handful of lackeys, you don't even have opponents any more. Even Richard Nixon, who was debased more than any American president, still had a few disciples at the end of his term, as well as many opponents. And even George Bush, at his nadir, still has 30 percent support. Whereas you are left with those who mock and disdain you, who regard you with amazement as they regard the desperate frog who thrashes around in a sea of milk in the hope of a cheese-salvation. Disdain spells the end for a politician, and therefore there is not much importance to the question as to when exactly the end will come; it's already here.

I have a suggestion for you: One day open up your security cordon of bodyguards, disguise yourself well, go outside, mingle with people, and hear with your own ears what they are saying about you in the marketplace, on the bus, in the soccer stadium, in the living room - and not all the living rooms belong to Tommy Lapid. The only person they talk about that way is Amir Peretz, dismissively and disdainfully, but also with tremendous national concern, if that's any consolation to you; the consolation of impoverished egos.

In the latest survey that was published this week, you received 2.5 percent support, and this finding is within the range of statistical error. Occasionally, when I'm seized by megalomania, I'm tempted to believe that even I would get three scrawny but complete percentage points of identification tossed my way, maybe four. The public has rejected you, that's a fact. You have no more options, but you have decided to prove to the entire public that it is mistaken. There has never been such a severance of contact between voters and elected officials, between the people of Israel and their Knesset.

You are scattering your final hopes in all directions, to the right and to the left, but especially to the left. I have a natural empathy with leftists. They never give up - as I myself can testify - and will always find someone on whom to hang their hopes; hope encounters hope. After they calm down from the bombing of Syria they'll find someone, they'll find you. And you will enter through the window of opportunity - as you promised - although so far you haven't evacuated even one disputed house in Hebron or a single controversial outpost on a bald mountain.

That's what's so nice about leftists: The less they believe in themselves, the stronger their faith in others. When will we understand that a defective tree produces defective apples? A society and an army will not be rehabilitated on rot. And it is impossible to separate what happened in Lebanon from what happened in the Israel Investments Center and in the Small Business Authority for large business deals. And the "peace process" does not pass through dry land while smelly water divides before it like a wall, as during the Exodus. Olmert can continue as prime minister or he can stop, in any case he's as good as dead, and the politically dead will not revive a dying process.

Olmert is fortunate in only one thing, and his good fortune is Benjamin Netanyahu. And Netanyahu is also fortunate, and his good fortune is Olmert. The fate of a nation depends on their games of chance - cards, dice and poker chips. We need a lot of luck now in order to emerge from the casino in one piece - and a lot of Winogradian daring and good judgment.

I was asked this week, after the publication of the Winograd report, whether Olmert has thick skin, so thickened and rough that he doesn't feel stabs of shame; after all, they asked, you've known him for a long time. It's not a matter of skin - I tried to reply - it's more a matter of character, and Olmert has the character of a certain type of lawyer, who will never accept the fact that a case is lost; he will not give in even when the judges are desperately signaling concession, acceptance, retreat in dignity.

Once upon a time, Israel was characterized by the call, "After me!" That was the call of great leadership. Olmert is apparently the first to institute a fundamental change: Instead of "After me!" he now sounds like someone calling out, "After me, the deluge."

A few days ago I visited the Defense Ministry. I was invited to speak to the participants in the Israel Defense Forces Talpiot program for gifted soldiers. When I arrived at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, I saw all the participants waiting at the gate of the army base. They were not allowed to enter because the prime minister was there at a meeting, and security comes first. From the heights of the seventh floor of the building I watched those who were delayed, I waited for them, until three official cars stormed out, blue lights flashing and sirens blaring. That is what remains of the premiership: the siren of an empty car in the empty space.

And if you did read this after all, Ehud, then laugh, laugh at the dreams, as the poet said; it's me the golem speaking. And I'm telling you that there is no one among us who is allowed to become confused and to say that the state is he, that "the state is me."