Photo: Gil Yohanan
Opposition Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset
Photo: Gil Yohanan

A duel without fire

Despite the circumstances, Netanyahu didn't take advantage of the situation for a total knockout; if there had indeed been a duel at the Knesset Monday, it took place without firing a single shot

While thousands of soldiers are still deep inside Lebanon, millions of civilians are slowly coming out of the bomb shelters and hundreds of families are mourning their sons - many of whom are still to be buried - the prime minister concluded the second war in Lebanon in his Knesset address Monday.


It wasn't just an address to the nation; Olmert gave his version of the war. From now on the version presented at the Knesset will become the official version presented by his advisors, his attorneys, his aides and his supporters when they try to prevent the setting up of a commission of inquiry and when they try to stabilize the coalition and prevent discord within the Kadima party ranks.


An excellent orator


Olmert is an excellent orator. He combines a measured dose of emotion and rationalism with poetic anecdotes and matter-of-factness. It was an expected speech, and its timing important. It came at a time when the public was attuned to the messages, its emotions yet to be consolidated.


However, Omert directed his speech primarily at public opinion. At the public sitting at home still unable to digest the developments of the past month. The public's stance will in the coming weeks become a deciding factor on whether and what type of commission of inquiry will be set up.


Address to the nation


This was the reason Olmert addressed everyone yesterday, and I mean everyone, with a warm embrace. No one escaped his embrace: not the chief-of-staff, the commanders, the soldiers, the bereaved families, the abducted soldiers' families, the security and rescue forces, the mayors, the volunteers, the northern citizens, the people of Israel, the Knesset members, the defense minister, the foreign minister, nor the cabinet members – no Israeli citizen could argue that he did not appear on the list of Olmert's credits.


Olmert called on everyone with paternal moderation, including those who may have been disappointed - as mentioned in passing as if it were a trivial complaint: friends, have patience, patience. Or in other words, you are yet to discover we won.


Netanyahus' address no less important


Benjamin Netanyhu's address was no less important than Olmert's. As head of the opposition, he could have taken advantage of the moment and challenged the leadership. He could have protested, as Begin did, following the Yom Kippur War by asking why they didn't bring in the heavy equipment sooner? Netanyahu could have accused Olmert's government of failure; he could have called for a legal commission of inquiry. He could have conveyed a message that he was the right person to replace Olmert as prime minister, that there is an alternative to a failed cabinet.


However, Netanyahu chose to maintain a low profile. Perhaps his bitter experience in previous instances silenced him; perhaps he found it difficult to abandon the image he had acquired during the war, an image of a stately opposition leader of fine caliber. His speech was excellent. It was controlled and careful. He managed to maintain this sterile image, almost without friction. The applause coming from the plenum attested to his growing popularity.


Duel on the podium


The two speeches delivered by the prime minister and the opposition leader met on the Knesset podium. They addressed a country licking its wounds at the end of a war plagued with question marks. Despite the circumstances, Netanyahu didn't take advantage of the situation for a knockout shot, if there had been a duel it took place without firing a single shot.


Perhaps Netanyahu was right when he decided that this wasn't the time to rock the boat, to call for a commission of inquiry at this point in time.


And perhaps, Netanyahu like Netanyahu, lost the moment because of his stateliness.


פרסום ראשון: 08.15.06, 19:21
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