Haaretz reports deep political difficulties facing three of the nation’s more bombastic leaders. The most important is Dan Halutz, the IDF chief of staff. The newspaper reports that three hours after the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers on the northern border he went personally to his bank to liquidate a $30,000 investment account. Though he’s given no reason for his action other than saying he did it to cover previous losses, clearly everyone in Israel believes that he judged that the market would tank in light of the coming war and that Halutz wanted to avoid the consequent losses:
The IDF chief said he sold the portfolio because of losses he sustained prior to July 12.
“It was my portfolio of shares, on which I had lost NIS 25,000,” Halutz told Ma’ariv. “It is true that I sold the portfolio on July 12, 2006, but it is impossible to link that to the war. At the time I did not expect or think that there would be a war.”
Senior sources in the IDF General Staff and field officers who took part in the war in Lebanon said Tuesday that Halutz cannot escape resignation. The sources say there is a clear ethical flaw in the chief of staff’s behavior during the hours when soldiers were being killed in Lebanon and others were attempting a rescue operation. Halutz should resign the moment the military completes its pullout from south Lebanon they said.
At this stage however it seems unlikely that Halutz intends to quit of his own accord.
It smells to high heaven. And most people believe that the army’s abysmal performance against Hezbollah along with his ethical peccadilloes will cost him his job. I can’t see that Olmert would feel any loyalty toward him at all and would probably gladly dump him overboard as a sacrificial lamb who might distract the attention of those who want Olmert’s hide for the war’s failure.
Israeli police feel they have a very strong sexual harassment case against Haim Ramon, justice minister, and one of the more hawkish and bellicose of the current ministers. He has made continual brutish comments about both the Palestinians and Lebanese showing you can never overestimate the amount of compassion an Israeli politician can muster for Israel’s neighbors. The calculation by him and others is the meaner you sound the greater your macho image in the body politic. Ramon is a refugee from the Labor Party who has undergone a gradual transformation from young, brainy political hunk to near-dead meat.
When I worked at the Westchester Jewish Federation I once arranged for him to speak to our board of directors. He was one of the coldest fishes and least engaging individuals I’ve ever met in such a situation. He spoke, answered a question and then left promptly. I hardly remember him speaking to anyone informally or even cracking a smile. I won’t miss him if he ‘draws the proper conclusion’ (as the Israelis say in Hebrew) and resigns.
Speaking of sexual harassment, it appears that Moshe Katsav, the current president, has a few sexual peccadilloes of his own to deal with with several former female employees accusing him of making unwanted advances and worse. Before the war began, the Israeli press was predicting his eventual demise as well.
There is a very small silver lining here. Israeli politics has been for decades a bastion of Ashkenazi male he-men types with a few Mizrahim sprinkled in for good measure. There are very few senior female political figures in any major party. It is good that men are being cut down to size and their expectations of dominance of their employees and the Israeli populace in general is being challenged. If this leads Israelis to realize that the lack of women in politics has only encouraged these sorts of shenanigans and more women enter politics and attain more senior positions in government it may be a good thing.
Another political demise I’d welcome would be that of Tzachi NaNegbi, one of Olmert’s political confidants and scion of an extreme nationalist Israeli political family (his mother was famed Arab hater, Geula Cohen). The attorney general accuses him of illegally padding the Environment Ministry payroll with political appointees. He now runs the formerly important Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Though how long he will retain this portfolio we can only speculate.
I once interviewed HaNegbi when he was Hebrew University student body president and recall him speaking yearningly for the restoration of the Third Temple, a notably extreme hawkish position on the Israeli right likely to create all out war with the entire Arab world. They say he’s become slightly more pragmatic since but apparently more corrupt as well. Nice going, Tzachi.
As these scandals prove, there is much corruption in the Israeli body politic. And this sort of presumptuous behavior may encourage the sort of bad judgment exhibited by the Israeli leadership in this war (though I’m not connecting these two issues directly). Good riddance to bad rubbish. As for the cleaning house that Israel is expecting in the aftermath of this disastrous war–this is a good start.