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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Feeling betrayed... again

I'm sure my friend Ben Chorin can parse the latest betrayal of public trust far better than I can.  But I am so angry (not surprised, mind you... just angry) about this latest flip-flop on the part of the Labor party that I need to vent.

For those who don't follow the news, here it is in a nutshell:

Ehud Olmert's Kadima-led government, of which the Labor Party is the 2nd largest member, was finally ready for a long-awaited burial.  The corpse, which had been rotting from the head down almost from the start, had finally been declared dead and the bunch of dumpster cats known as Olmert & Co. seemed to have used up the last of their political lives (and them some).

The Shas party, which is also part of the ruling cabal, had threatened several times to bring down the government, but had always managed to couch their threats in such a way as to give themselves an easy out.  Nothing was sacred to them... not the unity of Jerusalem... not the holiness of the land of Israel... not the lives of the people living on the periphery of the county (who are disproportionately represented among Shas's constituency). 

Oh yes, sorry... I almost forgot.  There was something sacred to them; money.  So long as Olmert continued to fund their special interests and institutions, and give a 'Shastitute' or two a government ministry, they weren't going anywhere.

But Labor.  What about Labor???  Ehud Barak publicly promised that he would bring down the government by supporting the Likud bill to dissolve the Knesset... a move that would automatically trigger new elections.  I don't like Labor's politics and I deeply distrust Barak.  But he is a highly decorated general who has served his country bravely for his entire adult life.  Doesn't the man have a shred of moral fiber?  Apparently he too is completely driven by self-interest... and his only interest is keeping himself and Labor in power (the interests of the country be damned!).

I woke up this morning to the news that Labor had abandoned its promise to dissolve the government and had instead agreed to allow the Kadima party to remain in power so long as they schedule primaries. 

What this essentially means is that this inept government full of corrupt and incompetent people will continue sailing the ship of state further and further onto the rocks... while Kadima will hold an internal vote at some as-yet-undisclosed date to decide who will replace Olmert as Prime Minister. 

But wait.  Don't start breathing in those fresh winds of change just yet.  It could very well be that Olmert will remain in charge after all since he has made it clear he intends to run in the Kadima primaries.  Who knows what leverage he holds over Kadima party members who will be casting ballots?  So the best we can hope for is that Livni - an entirely unqualified and unrepentant failure - will prevail.

I'm heart-sick with disappointment!

Ehud Barak should know better.  As a former soldier he should be disgusted with a government that has presided over the elimination of the last shred of our national deterrence and allowed the IDF to suffer defeat at the hands of a terrorist army. 

Barak, more than anyone should know that a country should wage war from behind a veil of secrecy and make peace in the open for all to see... not the other way around.  Yet he has watched as every thought and preparation Israel has made towards potentially defeating our enemies has been broadcast and dissected on the news... while 'peace negotiations' are held in closed sessions, giving the public no idea what terrible price we may have to pay for... well, we don't even know what we'll be getting in return!  It's insanity!!!

With the talk of elections in November there was at least the sense that the Israeli public would be able to have a small say in their future.  They would have a chance to support parties who shared their views... and use their ballots to punish parties that had failed to uphold previous promises and betrayed the public trust.

I'm sure in the coming days we will hear Barak mouthing platitudes about 'not the right time for elections'... 'for the good of the country'... 'too precarious a security situation for elections just now'... etc.  But what he will really be saying is "Anything but Bibi". He would rather keep his wagon hitched to a horse that is headed for a cliff than allow the ascendancy of his arch political rival, Benjamin Natanyahu. 

Barak knows that Likud would win as many as 30 - 35 Knesset seats in a Fall election, and that the Labor party would be punished for their ongoing support of Olmert.  So he has decided to put his own, and his party's, interests before the interests of the country.

You may not like or trust Natanyahu.  Heck, I can think of 3 or 4 other people I'd rather see as Prime Minister.  But Bibi's the only one who has a realistic shot of beating the current bunch of clowns right this very minute.   He has also been a responsible opposition leader, being quietly supportive during wartime and bringing measured pressure to bear on the government at critical junctures.

Many don't trust Natanyahu because he failed to deliver on many of his promises during his last tenure as PM.  But they conveniently forget that he was hopelessly saddled with the suicidal Oslo Accords which he had inherited from his predecessors.   

Setting aside existing treaties is not an easy thing to do.  This is one of the big reasons it is doubly troubling watching Olmert and Co.try to ram through new agreements at the last minute before the ax falls.  If elections are held before the current government does too much damage Natanyahu would have no Oslo-like albatross around his neck and he would have the advantage of a nation that is ready for a complete change in the way we conduct our internal and international business.

To say that Ehud Barak and the Labor party have betrayed the Israeli people and the State of Israel doesn't begin to describe what happened behind closed doors last night.  I can only hope that (someday)when elections are finally held that the Israeli public will punish them severely for this knife in the back. 

Posted by David Bogner on June 25, 2008 | Permalink

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When Olmert said he expects a Miracle, he meant, watch his pace.

Posted by: Rami | Jun 25, 2008 1:20:05 PM

You feel angry. I feel sad. and so pessimistic about the future of our country. Reading the papers and your posts make me want to cry.

Posted by: Baila | Jun 25, 2008 1:29:03 PM

David, why the big surprise? For the Olmert mob it's all about the Benjamins. They prostrate themselves before the almighty dollar, the nation be damned.

Israeli democracy may be imperfect but the alternatives are less savory. I'd like to see Bibi at the helm also and that could be possible if enough folks demanded change a la an Orange Revolution. Grassroots mobilization often leads to change on a national level . Only when Israelis get sick and tired enough of being sick and tired will they demand change. As long as money is more important than national survival there will be no change.

Posted by: Allan | Jun 25, 2008 4:45:22 PM

What's amazing is that a guy as electable as Natanyahu hasn't had a fair chance at the position for as long as I've been reading this blog. Something isn't right with the system.

What's even more amazing is that after all this time, I still have to go back and re-read the blog just to spell Natanyahu correctly.

Posted by: Mark Patterson | Jun 25, 2008 5:22:08 PM

I am beyond angry at this whole episode. Incandesently furious just scratches the surface of what I am feeling. Though I agree with you Trep, I am not surprised at all. I am just shocked anew when I discover that the lowest level to which our "government" has sunk has yet another lower rung beneath it at which it surely will arrive in due course.

I am terrified for the future of our country in a way that I have never felt before, even after 30 years in Israel.

We, someone, anyone, must organize some grass roots protests,demonstrations, civil disobedience, anything, until they bring the government down and call for elections.

Previous demonstrations, like the ones that took place after the Lebanon War and Winograd, were completely ignored by the pols. More extreme action is called for at this time.

Posted by: annie | Jun 25, 2008 5:25:01 PM

Great post and agreed. The Israeli public would benefit from a revamping of the electoral system and probably from an overhaul of the entire system, but what government would fix itself out of power? My understanding is the politicians aren't accountable to any voters, per se, just the party they are affiliated with and there is just way too much back-scratching going on.. How nice would it be if people could vote out politicians who abuse their position or who just plain stink. I hope that comes to Israel soon because it seems like the country is being sold down the river by 'people' who are just trying to save their own asses

Posted by: Josh K | Jun 25, 2008 5:52:28 PM

I pray that our people absorb the lessons of this past Shabbat's parsha Shelach better than our political leaders have done.

Posted by: Chanan | Jun 25, 2008 6:56:26 PM

I pray that our people absorb the lessons of this past Shabbat's parsha Shelach better than our political leaders have done.

Posted by: Chanan | Jun 25, 2008 6:56:50 PM

I pray that our people absorb the lessons of this past Shabbat's parsha Shelach better than our political leaders have done.

Posted by: Chanan | Jun 25, 2008 6:56:58 PM

Upsetting, yes. Surprising, no. Remember, this is the same Ehud Barak who bet Israel's future on Yasser Arafat back in 2000. Frighteningly, he probably still thinks he lost that bet. He was a very brave soldier, but he's a disaster as a politician.

Personally, I still have more of an issue with Shas. The Ehuds at least have the same political philosophy, so it makes sense that they get into bed together. But the Shastitutes are propping up a government that stands against everything they (supposedly) believe in. They have sold their souls to Olmert. They're a disgrace.

Posted by: psachya | Jun 25, 2008 6:57:46 PM

What are you so upset about? Even if the government had fallen, elections wouldn't take place for 3 to 4 months. During that time Olmert would be free to carry on his negotiations outside of the glare of publicity. He's learned his lesson well, as Psachya noted, Barak carried on negotiations in Taba even after he no longer had a majority government.

Barak probably understands that nothing much is going to change whether or not he stays in the government, so he might as well stay in power rather than risk his position.

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