On Monday, we still saw those who looked at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with semi-admiring eyes. "That was a Churchillian speech," one of Kadima's ministers got carried away at the end of the faction meting at the Knesset where the PM attempted to instill a sense of optimism in his downcast colleagues through a leadership-style speech. "That was a very important speech," the minister continued. "People waited to hear the things that were said. They wanted to hear words of leadership."
For a moment it appeared as though Olmert really intends to make an effort and turn into a political leader that holds the reigns. Yet that sense dissipated quickly, very quickly. Within about 24 hours, the "newborn leader" became a burden for its party. The official reports regarding the expected police investigation over the Bank Leumi affair took all the wind out of the sails of those hoping for good things to happen in Kadima. Monday's Churchill became a type of Amir Peretz Tuesday, or in other words, a politician being haunted by bad lack all the time, everywhere.
And then, Tuesday night, the ship was shaken again, upon Army Chief Dan Halutz's dramatic resignation. The political establishment, which was not surprised by the resignation itself but was stunned by the timing, entered a whirlwind. Now, the politicians are waiting for the "Halutz Effect" to dissipate - for the settling of the immense clouds of dust that were created with his resignation.
Rumors about secret Kadima meetings
Everyone knows that it is too soon to decide where the winds will be blowing next week, but some things are already clear: Olmert isn't expected to resign in the near future, the government won't fall, and those fantasizing about replacing the prime minister by another political figure against Olmert's will should be learning a little politics. It's an impossible move. "We have the atmosphere for a dramatic change in the political establishment," a senior Likud Knesset member said, "but the required conditions aren't there. Not yet."
Yet all this doesn't prevent the politicians from whispering among themselves, talking about "the situation," and coming up with scenarios, some more imaginary than others. That same sense of collapse that accompanies Kadima almost since the swearing-in ceremony of the Knesset and government, a feeling that comes and goes in accordance with the national mood, is back big time. The names of 10-12 Knesset members and minister in Kadima who are considered to have the potential to quit their party keep on coming up during conversations in the Knesset's hallways.
In addition, there are rumors about secretive meetings by senior Kadima members who convene to look into the possibility of replacing Olmert by someone else, and even updates regarding political meetings between Kadima people and Likud people of various ranks.
Yet in the Likud too, which is leading a policy of "elections or nothing," they understand that all the talk and whispers are only tantamount to releasing some steam. Talk is one thing, deeds are another. "Lieberman is the key to everything that can happen in the political system," a senior Likud member estimates. "As long as he's in the government, it looks stable, as long as Olmert doesn't quit for one reason or another. If Lieberman quits, the coalition will become smaller, and that will be the beginning of its real end. It will include 68 Knesset members, but it will find it much harder to function in the Knesset, and the opposition will have an easier time getting 61 votes for dispersing the Knesset. Besides, we must remember that a 68-member coalition without Israel Our Home is much less stable."
Therefore, it is too early to count on the scenario of a dramatic change in the political establishment. Within a few days Halutz's resignation is expected to enter the annals of history, and new affairs will be making headlines. If Defense Minister Peretz is able to maneuver well and can circumvent the demand that he resign after the army chief until the Winograd Commission's report is released – no surprises are expected from that direction either. This leaves the current situation unchanged: Halutz is out, Gabi Ashkenazi is apparently in, Olmert stays at his post and so does Peretz, for a few more weeks at least.
It's worthwhile paying attention to:
...Every few days, Amir Peretz's "close associates" surface and recommend that he quit his post in exchange for various extended government portfolios. Peretz, on his part, is quick to clarify each time that he's not quitting. Not soon at least. The defense minister's people are fed up with the kind-hearted "close associates." They recommend that Peretz quit? No problem. They should come and see the defense minister touring, making unannounced visits to examine bases across the country, and implementing the work plan for 2007. "We just hope he will have the courage not to give up in the face of the kind-hearted souls," the defense minister's people say. "For now, it appears he has all the courage in the world, and he doesn't intend to give them the pleasure of quitting just like that."