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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Photo: Reuters
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Photo: Reuters
 
 
Sever Plocker  

 

The house that Olmert built

Prime minister's improper appointments come back to haunt him

Published: 11.15.06, 16:13 / Israel Opinion

What does the public have against the Olmert administration? Why do so many people feel that this is "the worst cabinet Israel has had in recent years"?

 

It's not because of the war. The shortcomings revealed and those yet to be revealed regarding the military's conduct in Lebanon are not attributed to the prime minister and are not much different than the failures prevalent in other military systems. The Olmert-Peretz cabinet has had particularly low public ratings since its very inception, even before a single shell was fired on the Lebanese border. It is doubtful whether any government in the last 12 years has ever set out with such limited public support, albeit its solid majority in the Knesset.

 

The first week of fighting in Lebanon actually increased the Olmert administration's popularity. The winds of war were beneficial, and in polls conducted at the time, leading ministers received relatively high marks. However, this was a short-lived peak. The public quickly resumed its reservations. In the tests of credibility, suitability and performance, the public awarded its ruling government particularly low scores. Support for the coalition dropped after Avigdor Lieberman was brought into the government – despite the fact that the number of MKs supporting it increased.

 

Even two controversial prime ministers Netanyahu and Barak enjoyed greater support than Olmert on the eve of their critical visits to the US – despite both being at a political ebb.

 

Even the intensity of negative feelings towards Olmert in civilian life cannot be explained by his policies. There is economic growth, the shekel is strong, investors are investing, businesses are profitable, the stock exchange is rising, salaries are increasing and with it the standard of living. Next year's State budget is no worse than those of previous years.

 

The public burst into laughter

The public is judging Olmert's cabinet harshly not because of its actions, but rather, because of its composition. It is generating general revulsion not because of what it has done but rather because of what it is. It is perceived as incapable, lacking a backbone, put together at the whim of coalition caprices. In the eyes of the Israeli public, the prime minister erred in the majority of the nominations for the majority of ministerial posts. On completing the assembly of the cabinet, the Israeli public was exposed to the house that Olmert built, and it burst into laughter.

 

The public wanted a professional and smart government and it got a grey and amateur one.

 

Late Professor Peter F. Drucker, one of the greatest management scientists, would tell his students in the very first lesson: Of all the decisions a manager has to make, and they are numerous and inevitable, there is one he must devote all his time and effort to, because this is what will either determine his success or failure: The decision who to appoint to which position. When the right people are appointed to the right posts, explained Drucker, 80 percent management success is assured. The remaining 20 percent is luck, environment and character etc. The risk of appointing bad people is not only that unsuitable people are detrimental to the company, but more so that they appoint unsuitable people such as themselves as their subordinates, which is usually revealed belatedly if at all.

 

Bad appointments like a malignant disease

Bad appointments, Drucker would caution, are synonymous with a malignant disease, only discovered when it is too late.

 

I doubt whether Olmert has read Professor Drucker's recommendations. I have reason to believe he hasn't because he just recently appointed Avigdor Lieberman, a man of action, to the post of Israel's minister charged with strategic affairs. In other words, he appointed the active Lieberman, who excelled in the post of infrastructure minister, to a post more suitable for a person with a background in history and military matters with a contemplative nature – everything that Lieberman is not.

 

Lieberman, by the way, presented himself in a long interview granted to the Russian TV channel as the minister charged with all of Israel's clandestine matters "just like Dan Meridor and Omar Suleiman, the head of Egyptian intelligence." Could this be true, and we didn't even know?

 

The cloud of Olmert's unsuitable appointments will continue hanging over him and his cabinet even if it chalks up practical achievements. The management professor's grim predictions will also come into play, and by the time the prime minister comes to his senses several subordinates, just like their superiors, will be appointed to unsuitable posts. This is the secret of the system – it duplicates its errors.

 

If Olmert intends to shed the curse that has chased him as far as America, he should fix the problem at home. To be more precise, in the prime minister's house that he himself built.

 

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