If someone is looking to see the frenzy within the political establishment ahead of the publication of the Winograd Report, they can take this past week as a test case. On the same day, two senior politicians – each one for his own reasons – turned to spectacular spins in order to draw media attention to their new positions, and in order to soften up the public's heart ahead of the "day after."
First we saw Benjamin Netanyahu, who during his Herzliya Conference speech completely changed the threatening narrative that has been accompanying him since the 2006 general elections. Instead of using terms such as Hamastan, and instead of boasting that "I told you so," the Likud chairman focused on his future plans.
Yes, Netanyahu wants peace, and he has an entire economic plan prepared to that end.
Netanyahu presented his worldview to conference participants, detailed his plans, and in fact broke hard to the Center and adopted Shimon Peres' lingo. Netanyahu and Peres, Bibi's associates say, met several time in the past few months. Netanyahu presented to the president his diplomatic plans. A new Middle East really.
At the same time, Ehud Olmert was busy steering hard to the right. "I don't care that Gaza residents are forced to walk," the prime minister said while referring to the Gaza siege, and the talkbackers went wild. Never before had Olmert received so many words of support from readers.
The prime minister and his people apparently realized that the Israeli public loves to hate Olmert, but it hates the Palestinians even more. The tough position presented by the prime minister vis-à-vis the besieged Gazans instantly turned him into the crowd favorite. The public likes to see its prime minister being indifferent to Palestinian suffering. This trick helped Ariel Sharon in the past, and now it serves Olmert.
Olmert wants to show strengthThe change of direction by those two political figures is at the heart of preparations ahead of the Winograd Report 's release this coming Wednesday. Netanyahu wants to believe that the report will send Olmert home, and by miracle Bibi shall become Israel's next prime minister in the next few months. Therefore, the Likud leader is preparing.
Netanyahu knows that in the diplomatic atmosphere that was created in the wake of the Annapolis Conference, it is impossible to continue with threatening rhetoric alone. Centrist voters want to see a political horizon and wish to know about their prime minister's plans. Therefore, Netanyahu's diplomatic plan was presented this week of all times, and at the Herzliya Conference of all places.
Olmert wants public opinion Wednesday to be dealing not only with the report, but rather, also with the Gaza chaos. He knows that's his opportunity to prove he is not the latest leftist conceder, as the Right wishes to portray him. When needed, he knows how to hit the Arabs hard; we can count on him.