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May 3, 2007: Oh So Slowly

May 3, 2007

One has a desire to be finished with it all — to see the government overturned and the process of healing begun. But it’s not to be, yet. For we’re dealing with a bunch of self-serving cowards, and this is going to be a long process.

Tzipi Livni has announced that she thinks Olmert should resign, but, after having suggested that she would likely resign if Olmert did not, she came to the conclusion that she didn’t have to. "There is no certainty that had I quit, the prime minister would have resigned as well," she explained, turning the issue totally on its head.

The real question is how she can declare that the prime minister is not fit to remain in office, but express readiness to continue to work for him. There was even one of those ridiculous statements from her about how it wouldn’t be right to leave, as she can help see through changes recommended by Winograd. So it’s not exactly a model of integrity and courage that she is projecting, and word is that (thank goodness) she has lost support from within Kadima and is now less likely to ever assume its mantle of leadership. Had she led with forthrightness, others might have followed.

And where are the other members of Kadima? How long now have I been reporting on various rumors, including claims by Netanyahu, that a considerable number of the Kadima members who had come from Likud to Kadima were going to bolt and rejoin Likud? So where are these people? At the Kadima Knesset faction meeting yesterday, only three people out of 29 came out for Olmert’s resignation: Livni, MK Marina Solodkin, whom I wrote about yesterday, and Coalition Chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki, who tendered his own resignation (and has since been replaced by MK Tzahi Hanegbi, who is the epitome of opportunism). If you try to oust me, Olmert had told them, the party will collapse, there will be elections, and your careers will be over. So they voted with their rear ends, to keep their seats.

Presumably all of them know that it’s only a matter of time, that Olmert will have to go within months — perhaps after the final Winograd report this summer. But not yet.

It’s being said that if Olmert had handled the Lebanon War with as much planning and thought as he is devoting to protecting himself politically now, there would have been no need for a Winograd Report.

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Olmert may yet fire Livni. The impression on first blush was that he certainly wouldn’t permit someone who openly challenged him to remain in his cabinet. And indeed he still may. But some advisers are saying that this would make a martyr out of her. So we’ll have to wait and see.

Certainly there are replacements for Livni waiting in the wings — with Shaul Mofaz (who left Likud for Kadima, and now serves a minister of transportation), and Haim Ramon (who came to Kadima from Labor) being mentioned. The story of Ramon is interesting, but not exactly uplifting: He had been minister of justice until his indictment for sexual harassment. But though he was found guilty, the court declared this was not a case of moral turpitude and so he is still permitted to sit in the Cabinet. The names Avi Dichter (minister of internal security) and Meir Sheetrit (minister of housing) are also being bandied about as possible replacements for Livni in the short term. But in the long term, these guys have their eye on leadership of Kadima.

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Also lacking in integrity and courage is Defense Minister Peretz, who, after declaring he was thinking of resigning, has decided not to. He and his aides are explaining that Winograd wasn’t hard on him, and that he really did do some good things. In fact, they are quick to point out, Winograd criticized Ehud Barak for pulling out precipitously from Lebanon in 2000, thereby precipitating what followed. True enough. Barak is one of those challenging Peretz’s leadership of the Labor Party.

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The Knesset met in special session today to discuss the Winograd Report. By prior agreement, each party had five minutes for a representative to speak, except for Binyamim Netanyahu, who, as head of the opposition, had 10 minutes.

Netanyahu began with a call for the government to resign:

"This week, the Winograd Commission removed the screen from the eyes of the citizens, and reminded us of a truth that we all knew very clearly for the first decades of our State, but that has become blurred of late – namely, that our existence and peace with our enemies are dependent mainly on our strength. Only if we are strong, will we prevent or win wars, and will we have a genuine hope for peace.

"I have said before: If our enemies lay down their swords, there will be peace, but if we lay down our swords, we simply won’t be at all. This is the clearest message of the Winograd report – that our sword is held by a weak hand."

Effi Eitam, of National Union, spoke to the ministers:

"We see you in your shame and embarrassment, hiding behind…the ruins of your government, knowing that your time is up yet refusing to go."

The words of Danny Yatom, who spoke for Labor are worth noting:

"The time of responsibility has arrived. You must now show leadership – that which was so sorely missing during the war – and quit. This crisis is among the worst in the history of the State. You have lost the confidence of the voters, and you can no longer represent them. Instead of spending your time dealing with political survival, there is a country that has to be run."

Labor is a significant part of the coalition; if it pulls out, the gov’t would fall.

Meretz — to the far left — and United Torah Judaism — to the far right — both called for the government to quit, as well.

It was Peretz who was singled out for particular censure, however, because he didn’t even bother to show up. "…evidence of an attitude of unaccountability towards the public and the Knesset," MK Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) called this.

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Prior to the full Knesset session, the Likud Knesset faction held their meeting, at which time they called for the immediate dissolution of the government.

The National Religious Party also met in caucus today and called for early elections, saying they would work with other parties towards this end.

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When the Knesset re-convenes in regular session on Monday, at least four non-confidence votes will be placed before it.

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Tonight there was a major grassroots anti-government rally in Tel Aviv, the first of at least three such events planned.

But earlier today Yossi Beilin of Meretz and Effi Eitam of NU/NRP wrote an op-ed with regard to this rally that appeared on the front page of Ma’ariv:

"Come Protest"

"We never wrote an article together. We have opposing approaches regarding the path to realize Zionism. We stand on opposite sides on almost every issue and do not find ourselves partners in coalitions. But we both fear for the future of Israeli society. We both gaze in shock at the sight of the behavior of the prime minister in the wake of the Winograd Committee report. We both are convinced that Olmert must leave because of his
responsibility for the serious failure of the second Lebanon War. We both will do what is possible within the framework of the rules of democracy for this to happen…

" It may be possible to understand, but it is impossible to accept, the evil inclination that whispers so often in the ears of politicians in distress, that they and only they can redeem their state from the serious crises that they themselves created…

"Today will be the first test for all citizens, be their political positions what they may be, to come and defend the very essence of democracy: the right of the public to influence its destiny. The people in the square are those who will enable the voice of the People to be heard…This is a legal, moral, democratic process that we are all obligated to."

Translation by Dr. Aaron Lerner of IMRA. http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=34138

That such a piece could be written gives considerable hope for the future of our nation.

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It was estimated that some 200,000 people crowded into Rabin Square for the demonstration — a demonstration of reservists, and bereaved families and young people, along with many others. Among the powerful points that was made is that Olmert has lost the moral authority to send our soldiers into battle.

I have pondered what difference it will make, for Olmert has shown himself to be oblivious to public will. On reflection, however, I think it can serve several purposes:

It can bring a spirit of unity, and rally the people to give voice to their angers. It can move them to go from this to other actions of a political nature. And, just possibly, it can cause those in the Knesset who have voted with their rear ends to take a look and begin to realize that the people are aroused, and that their long term political interest might best be served by responding to the will of the people.

Let us pray so. "…defend the very essence of democracy: the right of the public to influence its destiny."

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While we’re waiting for that new government, the world goes on, and it’s time to devote some attention to other matters. If only the news in other quarters were not so dismal.

We knew that former MK Azmi Bishara was a bum, with no loyalty to Israel. That much has long been clear. But still the latest news about him is a shocker. The gag order has been lifted by the court that is investigating him, and what we’re seeing is perhaps the worst care of espionage in Israel’s history. It is alleged that Bishara, for a considerable sum, provided advice to Hezbollah on what to target with their rockets during the war. Drawing on evidence they already had of his connections with Hezbollah (garnered over a period of years), security officials from the Shin Bet and the police petitioned the High Court for the right to wiretap his phone. (Only the court can order a wiretap on a member of Knesset.) Hezbollah apparently relied heavily on Bishara’s information. They received from him detailed information about targets they should strike, and various other sorts of intelligence. It was on his advice that they sent rockets south of Haifa. For his assistance, they paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars, which came to him via a family of money changers in eastern Jerusalem — one of whom is now prepared to testify.

When money came in for him, the money changer informed him by phone according to a pre-determined code: $50,000 being one "book." Do you want the book in English (dollars) or Hebrew (shekels)? Bishara would be asked. Investigators were amused by a discussion involving "half a book" that Bishara was to receive.

The charges against Bishara include "assisting an enemy in time of war" (treason), a capital crime. He will never be executed, however, because there is no way he will return here to face these charges. (Israel has executed only one person in her history: Nazi Aldoph Eichmann.)

Since he left the country, various of Bishara’s records have been sealed for further investigation. There are additional charges against him involving theft of millions of shekels from an Arab aid organization.

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Replacing Bishara in the Knesset will be Said Nafa. He has spent time in prison for refusing to serve in the Israeli army, and is seeking to reverse the policy that requires the members of the Druze community (many of whom have acquitted themselves with distinction) to serve in the army because the Druze are an “inalienable part of the Palestinian nation.”

How then, I would like to know, can Nafa take an oath of loyalty to Israel, required of incoming members of the Knesset.

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It in no way surprises me that Bishara would make up every excuse under the sun for why Israel is after him. Far more disturbing to me are the comments of MK Jamal Zahalka, who has now replaced Bishara as head of the Balad party: “There is a general call to turn Dr. Azmi Bishara into a scapegoat as revenge for failures in the Lebanon war,” he declared.

"There is a mix of opportunism and racism here, and fascist conceptions by small politicians trying to gain cheap popularity amongst the public. This is an attempt to try and scare the Arab public into changing its political stances, but it will not work…

“At the end of the day, this is just an attempt to politically eliminate Bishara, and it will fail because Bishara’s opinions are not only his; large parts of the Arab population, and a significant minority in the Jewish population have the same opinions.”

We are, I tell you again, in serious trouble here, certainly with regard to the radicalizing of the Israeli Arab population. But I note as well Zahalka’s comments about Jews. I doubt he really speaks on behalf of a "significant" minority of Jews, but there are far left Jews who came out in defense of Bishara.

How about a modicum of loyalty to the State during war? How about national policies that demand such loyalty? Wholeheartedly do I agree with MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) who said: “There is a line between democracy and freedom of expression, and treason. Israel must sharpen the line between what is criticism, and what is treason."

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This posting can be found at: https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2007/5/3/may-3-2007-oh-so-slowly.html

 

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