The People Have Spoken

Israel said yes to Olmert's Kadima, but it was a partial, reserved yes. A yes, but.

Ehud Olmert will be the Israeli prime minister. Whatever the reservations about the legitimacy of the election campaign or Olmert's own legitimacy, the decision has been made. It's the end of the twilight period of an acting premier next to the huge, orphaned chair of the prime minister. It's the end of the partial legitimacy. From now on, Olmert is captain of the Israeli ship.

The people have spoken: The land will be divided. Thirty-nine years after the start of the occupation, the Israeli nation decided this week to significantly minimize it. After decades of sharp argument, the State of Israel has fully adopted the two-state solution. There's no way back: It's the end of the twilight period of disengagement, yes or no. It's the end of the controversial legitimacy of the separation maneuver. From now on, the question is not if, but when, to where, and how. The Greater Land of Israel is over and done with.

The nation also said that Olmert's far-reaching unilateral plan will not be fulfilled. Not because it is absurd, but because it does not have a mandate. Only a quarter of the Israelis said yes to the unilateralism on which the elections were a sort of referendum. More than 40 percent said no, no way. Because of that, those who argue that the elections were a referendum must respect the results. Divide the land, yes. Sweeping unilateral retreat, no. Ariel Sharon's way, yes. Olmert's plan, no.

Olmert is not Sharon. Sharon went very slowly, while Olmert goes very fast. Sharon behaved like a stubborn farmer, Olmert like a wily lawyer. That's why the public decided that the heir should not be trusted, and he should not have the same kind of absolute mandate that was given his predecessor. It's the end of the era of blindly following the mythological leader. It's the end of the spin and the carefully preserved citron. Until Olmert proves he is indeed worthy of the lofty position, he has limited credit. Israel said yes to Olmert's Kadima, but it was a partial, reserved yes. A yes, but.

The nation also said it was fed up with the hegemony of the top thousandth percentile. After years of wild privatization, the time has come to reexamine the situation. After a brutal decade of trampling over society, the time has come to ask where it is all heading. It's the end of the era that from the start granted legitimacy to every whim of the masters of the centralized economy. It's the end of the era that turns most Israelis into serfs of the new barons. Indeed, the elections were a referendum about not only the great withdrawal, but also the great wealth.

The decision made by the referendum for a more just distribution of the wealth is much clearer than the referendum's decision on the political future. Starting this week in Israel, there is an absolute majority committed to restraining social Darwinism. Amir Peretz may not have won, but social-democracy is back. After a long period of moral coma, the Israeli nation is once again demanding justice.

The people spoke in a strange and winding way. It smashed the Likud, turned its back on Benjamin Netanyahu, and split the right. It restrained Kadima, taught Olmert a lesson, and expressed its protest through the pensioners. But in Elections 2006, the Israeli public once again proved it is not stupid. It rebelled against those who tried to brainwash it, rose up against those who ordered it how to behave. It understood that something went wrong in the big bang, so it must be chilled and shrunk and treated extra cautiously.

Never has there been such a shameful election campaign in Israel. But at the end of this depressing race, the Israeli public proved that it, as opposed to some of its elites, still has the heartbeat of a vital, true democracy. Therefore, Olmert and Kadima should listen carefully to the complex decisions made by these elections, and respect them. The people have spoken, and what they said must be obeyed.