Mofaz seeks throne, Olmert a way out
Former defense minister certain he can lead a better war, PM faces tidal wave of investigations
Minister of Transportation and Road Safety, Shaul Mofaz is a secretive man. He is not likely therefore to publicly announce that there is no one more suitable than he for the post of Israel's next prime minister. However, this aside, he truly believes he is the right man for the job.
This is why Mofaz is calmly accepting the recent shockwaves rattling Olmert's seat. He will neither forget, nor will he forgive the prime minister for moving him from his lofty post at the Defense Ministry to the depths of the Transportation Ministry. Mofaz is a long distance runner, for those who don't know. He is still in top form.
It's not surprising therefore that in his address Tuesday evening to an audience of 40 driving instructors in a closed complex in Omer near Beer Sheba, he was quoted as saying: "A commission of inquiry should examine the government and the statesmen."
Namely, when Mofaz thinks the press is out of earshot, he says that the prime minister's conduct should be probed, and that no harm will come about if Defense Minister Amir Peretz bears the brunt along the way as well. According to Mofaz, the investigation will undoubtedly reveal that Olmert mishandled the war, that he screwed up and that he should go home. That's when Mofaz will get another chance.
Olmert was infuriated, but didn't even bother to telephone his transportation minister. There's been little comradeship between the two for quite some time. True, Olmert the citizen, values the knowledge and experience of "Mr Defense", as he became known, and even used it during the war.
However, their present relationship is businesslike and chilly. On the surface, Mofaz backed Olmert during the war, except for his vote against the ceasefire. Beneath the surface the lava is red hot. Mofaz is preparing himself for the putsch.
When those seeking a future political life look around for a fitting candidate, Mofaz gains a few points. He listens to those who flatter him – from ministers to Knesset members and from Kadima to the simple man on the street. They tell him that had he filled the post of Defense Minister during the war, we would have emerged triumphant.
Mofaz values his experience as chief of staff and as defense minister, who served Israel and is currently searching for its missing self confidence. He believes that by hard work, he will eventually arrive at the longed for throne
However, Shaul, contrary to the king he was named after, is seeking the throne and is likely not to find it. No one has forgotten how he embarrassingly zigzagged from the Likud ranks to Arik Sharon's newly founded Kadima party. And he will not be forgiven for his silence vis-à-vis the mishandling of the war.
There will also be those who will remind him of the six "bad" years in which Hizbullah armed itself to the teeth, while he as chief of staff and defense minister did nothing. But Mofaz believes in himself, and he won't let his belief interfere with the facts. Live and let live.
Incidentally, in response to our questions, Mofaz's aids informed us that he does not deal with these matters at present. "Israel's prime minister is Ehud Olmert whereas Mofaz is the transportation minister.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would love to have these days behind him.
On the one hand, the attorney general has disqualified two of the five members Olmert appointed for the committee of inquiry he set up in a quest to prevent a state commission of inquiry.
On the other hand, the State prosecutor is probing the allegations into the circumstances by which he purchased his home in Jerusalem. Not far from there, the attorney general is recommending a criminal investigation into the political appointments Olmert allegedly made while at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.
And as if that's not enough, this week he received a bereaved father whose son fell in Lebanon and who asked him outright to learn from Menachem Begin and to resign.
His 30 years in politics didn't prepare him for the tidal wave that is threatening to drown him. When looking around he cannot quite understand what is required of him. He, who is regarded as a deep-seated Zionist, the son of a deep-seated Zionist, who devoted days and nights to the people of Israel, is being labeled as 'unsuitable' by a part of the population.
He refutes the arguments alluding that he screwed up; that he wasted the significant credit the public gave him with a bloody war - costly in emotional damage and costly in finances, a war void of hope and purpose. But he is sticking to his guns, believing that if he says "we won", and he "will rebuild the north of Israel," he will retrieve the mandate he lost.
Olmert wants a new north, because that what's needed right now and that's what will push Kadima forward.
Amir Peretz wants the IDF prepared for a confrontation with Iran and its proxies - he is still the defense minister after all. Shimon Peres woke up from the nightmare of the second Lebanon war with the understanding that the Defense Ministry now needs high-technology.
Yuli Tamir wants a higher level of education, because that's why she entered the Education Ministry. Eliyahu Yishai from Shas wants welfare, otherwise what's the point of being in the coalition. Shlomo Benizri Minister of Labor and Social Welfare wants medication because the pensioners elected him for this purpose.
Mofaz wants transportation infrastructure because he brought his persistence of carrying out a mission from the army.
And what about Abraham Hirchson? He wants to guard the coffers ahead of the 2007 budget. According to what his disillusioned colleagues are saying the finance minister reiterated:
"I wanted a social budget, but what can I do that a war broke out in the middle. Our needs have changed. Now we have to return Israel to economic growth, because tomorrow you'll be saying there's no livelihood, no work and that unemployment is again on the rise. If we release the hundreds of millions you are asking for, the poor will soon be paying the price."
He elegantly shunned the Labor ministers, Shas and the Pensioners party who suddenly remembered they had been elected under the social banner and now fear the electorate's revenge. He shunned his colleagues from Kadima, who want to show some achievement now - because who knows what the next elections will bring, elections that may be held after the Jewish holidays.
The minister zealously protected the treasure buried in his basement, and sent them back to their Volvo's empty handed. He apparently knows that perks of leadership are more important to them than their fear of losing their seats because of another State budget.
Idiots, "get off the roof", he wanted to scream at them, as said by a former Finance Minister Yigal Horowitz, but he didn't say anything. There are some things you keep to yourself.
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