To being with, it was unclear, for heaven’s sake, what these elections are all about. Are they about Olmert’s integrity? Yet he is not running for office, and in at least one probe, the Bank Leumi affair, officials decided to close the case against him. So is it about investment in education? All parties are in favor. Is it about tightening controls on financial markets? All parties are in favor. Is it about an uncompromising struggle against crime? All parties are in favor.
And after Likud withdrew from its zealous capitalistic views, one would not be able to find differences between it and Kadima in respect to civilian issues even with a microscope. As to the Labor Party, it indeed wants to see billions of shekels added to the State Budget, yet this is not an issue to go to elections over.
So we’re left with the security front, where Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu adopted a hawkish stance and demanded an operation against Hamas here and now. Yet the moment the operation got under way, the rug was pulled from under Likud’s feet, and its agenda dissipated in the smoke of the bombings: one can no longer accuse the Olmert-Barak-Livni government of cowardice, hesitation, or defeatism.
Moreover, Mr. Netanyahu himself never had to manage a war, with the exception of the time he needed to suppress the riots in the wake of the Western Wall Tunnel’s opening. Meanwhile, Barak managed at least four or five large-scale military operations.
The military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip has limited tactical objectives, yet its results will reshape not only the ties between Israel and the Palestinian national movement and Islamic zealots, but also, the ties between Islamic zealotry and the pragmatic Arab world. Therefore, Israel must pursue the current campaign with full awareness and alertness, without fateful decisions being tainted by the mud of a political campaign and judged through the prism of elections.
Invite Bibi into government
Politicians are no angels: Livni, Barak, and Bibi cannot truly forget about electoral considerations and put aside the approaching Election Day. At most, they would be able to repress as, and as we know, that which is repressed always bursts out at the least opportune moment.
Even if the military operation ends within a week or two, the post-war diplomatic campaign will continue for a long time. Meanwhile, moral issues that are not being discussed at this time will emerge as well.
Had a public opinion poll been undertaken right now, it would turn out that most Israelis back the postponement of elections. Yet how do we stimulate party heads to agree to it? The opposition may view an elections delay as an anti-democratic conspiracy, while the coalition will fear being perceived as clinging on to power.
The first step must be undertaken by Prime Minister Olmert: He needs to candidly approach Benjamin Netanyahu and offer that he join the government and the security-political cabinet. Netanyahu can only gain politically by joining.
The next step needs to be the establishment of an “economic round table” to be manned by the finance minister and other relevant top officials, including labor union heads. In subsequent discussions, the officials will formulate essential agreements aimed at guaranteeing economic growth and curbing unemployment. Meanwhile, the Knesset shall approve a consensual State budget for 2009 that would reflect the new realities.
The third step would come in the form of an offer extended to all parties to join the emergency government without preconditions.
Should Knesset elections not be postponed, one of the most fateful military-diplomatic campaigns in Israel’s history will be managed on the back of and in the shadow of a dumb, needless, and morally lacking election campaign. There could be nothing worse than that.