I use Jim Morrison’s lyrics for exaggerated effect. Ehud Olmert certainly has more than one friend remaining within Israeli politics. Like all of those fixers and real estate developers whose palms he greased when he was minister of industry. They’ll be his friends at least till the end.
But Tzipi Livni isn’t his friend, that’s for sure. She hasn’t been his friend since before the Lebanon war. She essentially sat out the war which was odd since you’d think that a nation at war would need its foreign minister to be its cheering section in the international community. But she was wise to do so since the war was a disaster. She wisely understood this when few other Israeli politicians did. Even Labor politicians who should have known better “signed on” for the war and became supporters, if not cheerleaders.
The NY Times reports that Livni met with Olmert today and afterwards announced she was calling for his resignation. She has thrown down the gauntlet. Now, Olmert knows he will not be allowed to coast along till the summer when the Winograd Commission releases the final half of its report which will cover the period of the war after the initial first few days. Though Livni is not necessarily a kingmaker (as the Times noted “Ms. Livni…is a popular but austere figure, and her statement was hardly a clarion call to rebellion”), she has put Olmert in play. She is the natural choice for the party to turn to as Olmert’s replacement if it wishes to retain power and not move to new elections. So if she wins, she will probably end as the new PM. But how much juice she has is an open question. Kadima is a shadow of the party it was while Sharon ran it. The latest opinion polls give it 12 votes if elections were held today (Likud gets 30 and Labor 20). The combination of Olmert’s performance during the war and the multiple corruption scandals (three of which involve Olmert himself) afflicting various ministers have lost Kadima much of its luster.
Olmert appears to think he can soldier on. The party gave its endorsement during a meeting today. And the tired Old Hack, Shimon Peres, spoke this odd encomium:
…Peres, 83, a deputy prime minister, emerged from the meeting of Kadima Party legislators to say that Mr. Olmert had their “unprecedented support,” an odd phrasing, given the circumstances.
The Olmert forces have some odd ideas about loyalty given the situation and their ability to shape events in the twilight of their reign:
One Olmert aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the difficult political situation, said that Ms. Livni had hoped Mr. Olmert would fire her, but that instead he would “leave her out to dry.”
Olmert ought to think again. If anyone is “drying out” it is him. Pretty soon he’ll be so politically dessicated he’ll blow away on the next wind. I read a comment at TPMCafe (I haven’t checked whether it’s accurate or not) that his approval rating is now at 2%!
Can Livni rally the troops and attain a measure of personal credibility if she becomes prime minister? I hope to God, because waiting in the wings is that Mephistopheles (or should I call him Beelzebub?) of Israeli politics, Benyamin Netanyahu.
When Israel feels under internal threat it always turns right. And though it is not under an Arab threat as it has been during the various intifadas when it turned right politically, Olmert’s downfall has made Israelis feel they are under domestic threat. Amir Peretz, having tied himself so closely to Olmert’s apron strings, presents no viable alternative to Olmert. So Labor has essentially given up the field to Likud as the alternative to Olmert’s rule. All I can say is God help Israel if they turn to Mr. “It’s Munich, 1938.” There will be Israeli warplanes over Nantanz AND a new war with Hezbollah in short order. If Israel placed the Palestinian unity government into suspended animation, Netanyahu will place it in a deep freeze. If the next U.S. president is a Democrat is may be impossible to move a Netanyahu government toward any meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians or any Arab government. All I can say is good luck President Clinton or Obama, you’ll need it with this sucker.
Thanks to Sol Salbe for finding the vintage Olmert photo.