Bernard Avishai has written a compelling blog post in which he practically beseeches the heavens to deny Bibi Netanyahu the next prime ministership should Ehud Olmert resign. The latter has been questioned by police about a new bribery allegation that many in the press claim is more serious than the previous corruption charges levelled against Olmert (at least three that I recall). Though Olmert has more political lives than a cat, even cats have to die sometime. And many journalists believe this might be Olmert’s last life and hurrah.
Which is good and bad as Avishai notes:
FIRST, THE BAD…Waiting in the wings…is the worst government imaginable, a Bibi Netanyahu coalition of Likud’s hardest-liners, back-to-the-Land-of-Israel cultists, ultraOrthodox claustrophiles, Russian reactionaries and oligarchs, and General-opportunists. Resignation could bring the demise of the Kadima Party, as former Likud people scurry back to the fold.
…THE GOOD NEWS, however, is that there is an obvious replacement for Olmert, who has always stood a much better chance of holding Kadima together by the force of her popularity. I mean, of course, the foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, a straight-talking, very bright, and evolving politician (profiled here by the New York Times’ Roger Cohen).
Livni, unlike Olmert, was not tarnished by the 2006 Lebanon fiasco. As Akiva Eldar implies, she might well revive Kadima and draw new, younger forces to it. She is also more likely to advance the peace negotiations (which she nominally runs), or at least bring them to the national agenda. She provides Labor’s doves a leader to rally to while their own leader, Ehud Barak, continues to posture as the new Ariel Sharon, the IDF’s real commander, the scourge of terrorists. She could add the leftist Meretz Party, which said it would never join a government led by Olmert after Lebanon.
Indeed, the best scenario is not unlikely…It is that Livni and Barak will govern together for a year or so, and reconstitute the Israeli center, while putting the taint of corruption behind them. Only this will deny Netanyahu his second act. Something must.
I’m not sure I’d still characterize Barak as a politician of the “Israeli center.” He seems closer to the Likud or right-wing of Kadima than to the center. Of course, all this could be posturing on Barak’s part, biding his time until he can return to power and display what his true principles (if any) are. If so, then it’s impossible to know what he believes, if anything.