Photo: Gabi Menashe
Attila Somfalvi
Photo: Gabi Menashe
Will cancer help Olmert?
Prime minister’s decision to openly address public could score him some points
Despite all, there was something refreshing about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s candid announcement that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After five years of Ariel Sharon at the helm, which ended the way they ended, and after long years where so many people worked so hard to hide from the public the truth regarding Sharon’s genuine condition – Olmert chose the opposite approach. No longer a prime minister that has no replacement, but rather, a PM who is flesh and blood. A man like all other men. A human being.


In the current political reality, where lies reign supreme and nobody has any trust in their conversation partners, it is difficult to assume that Olmert did not consult with his people regarding the announcement’s timing. It is also hard to believe that the veteran Olmert, before he faced the cameras and microphones, forgot the good old rule: If your approval rating is low, it would be worthwhile to gain a little public empathy. Perhaps it would help.


Yet despite this, Olmert’s conduct signals a dramatic change in the dialogue between a prime minister and the electorate. Suddenly, after Sharon, Netanyahu and Barak, comes a prime minister who talks from the gut – a prime minister who is not afraid to respond to reality, the way it is, and does so quickly.


You thought he was the worst thing that can happen to this country? You got the “I’m not popular” speech. You thought we must not talk to the Palestinians? You got the “I’m Rabin’s true successor” speech last week. You thought Olmert was disconnected? You got the microscopic prostate cancer. There is nothing more intimate than that. Nothing that is more connected. He’s almost like a regular talkbacker now.


Every point counts

Only few in the political system thought there was something foul about Olmert’s announcement. Even fewer dared say so publicly, and even they were quick to warmly embrace the prime minister at the Knesset. Those who were looking to sting him, quietly expressed their amazement over “Olmert’s winning card.” No more than that.


At the same time, members of the political establishment attempted to analyze the implications of the cancer for long hours. Would it boost Olmert? Would it upgrade his position in the polls? Would the public shun the chronic sense of disgust with the arrogant, cigar-loving politician? Would the public discover Ehud Olmert’s other side?


It is too early to say. Overall, it is estimated that Olmert will indeed score some points and start moving up in the polls. Maybe not dramatically, but in his current state every point is an achievement and yet another step in the long ladder whose end is far from sight.


The prime minister needs support and requires a significant public opinion change. He is convinced that he is doing a good job. He knows that now, the public also needs to start understanding it, trust him, and believe that he is not the root of all evil in this country.


Prostate cancer is not the recommended strategic solution to the prime minister’s political condition. However, it could certainly help him present a different façade in public. Now all that is left is for Olmert to hope that the Israeli public would be able to appreciate its prime minister’s honesty, his public courage, and his decision to undertake an unprecedented step and expose himself to everyone. Because maybe, just maybe, it says something about the person, the man who is currently at the State of Israel’s helm. And maybe, just maybe, it could mean something good.


פרסום ראשון: 10.30.07, 14:51
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