Three Comments on the Situation

Enough with the political wheeling and dealing. Enough with the protests in Rabin Square. Enough with the perpetual dangling on the verge of war. A real political upheaval - that's what we need.

1) The Winograd Committee will take care of teaching Olmert how to run a war. But how to prevent the next one is something he'll have to learn on his own. The one escape hatch left to Olmert after his inevitable fall is to keep the next war from breaking out. As someone who supported Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan and promised to continue in his path by means of convergence (to the 1967 borders), the question is whether he is prepared to start immediate talks with the Arab countries, including Syria, on the basis of the Saudi plan.

This is the best plan the Arabs have offered us to date because all the details need mutual consent. Moderate Arab states are just as worried about confrontational Islam as we are, and Israel should take advantage of that to reach an agreement. If Olmert has the guts, let's see him do something. A leader who doesn't know how to run a war and doesn't know how to make peace should go home.

2) The Second Lebanon War exposed not only the weakness of the army, but also the weakness of our national leaders, whose job it was to guide the army in carrying out missions that were doable during the war. If there ever was a time that Israel was in dire need of new blood at the top, this is it. Enough with the political wheeling and dealing. Enough with the protests in Rabin Square. Enough with the perpetual dangling on the verge of war. A real political upheaval - that's what we need.

We are aching for change, but a leader carrying the banner of revolution and reform is nowhere to be found. We have politicians who play games with us and subscribe to the half-coffee/half-tea school. How can Tzipi Livni sit there telling Olmert to resign when she continues to work for him? How can Ehud Barak call on the prime minister to go home, yet have no problem with being defense minister under a boss who "needs to be replaced" but could also hold out until 2008? Most of our MKs are opposed to elections.

The fear of losing one's seat has become a supreme political value. When our political representatives say that elections could bring us someone worse than Olmert, it's a sign the system is rotten and needs an urgent overhaul. Many investigative committees have come and gone, but we need a committee-to-end-all-committees that will invent a way of getting the best people, the cream of the crop, into politics - the kind of politics that will make probes extinct.

3) This Thursday it will be 30 years since the historic upheaval at the polls that brought Likud to power. Who can forget the shiver that went down many a spine when TV broadcaster Haim Yavin uttered those words: "Ladies and gentleman, the tides have turned." After eight electoral defeats, Menachem Begin was in. Begin himself was so surprised he didn't show up at party headquarters until he was sure there was no mistake. From then until now, with a few stops along the way, Likud has set the tone - building settlements, but also dismantling them, in the wake of Israel's historic peace treaty with Egypt. But what began as an era of national pride and innocence was sullied when Begin and Yitzhak Shamir left.

Their heirs, Benjamin Netanyahu and Sharon, ushered in an era of speechifying in the public square, of unwashed masses, of wheeling and dealing that sent the country into a state of moral collapse. It's hard to forget Limor Livnat's rhetorical question at the Likud Party convention: "Were we elected to hand out jobs?" "Yes!" roared thousands in unison. The land filled with political hacks. (Remember Uzi Dayan of Ra'anana, with his slogan "Never fear, Uzi is here"?) Bibi brought in the spin doctors, the PR people, the strategic advisers, the atmosphere of hatred and incitement against political rivals, while he himself starred in the role of "I am the state."

Then came Sharon with the mike-grabbing episodes and the pomposity of David Levy, whose supporters turned over tables at a party convention. The mechanisms of government were trampled as hundreds of party members converged on the Knesset and applied "moderate physical pressure" on MKs to advance their personal causes. During the last third of the upheaval era, a web of government fraud and corruption came to light. Begin was as honest as they come, but it is no accident that his three heirs - Bibi, Sharon and Olmert, plus a few other characters such as Abraham Hirschson and President Moshe Katzav - are under police investigation. The Likud era has brought Israeli society to the brink of despair. And Yavin, who retired from Israel Television this week, won't be around much longer to announce that the tides have turned.