Yoram Kaniuk
Photo: Michael Kramer

Olmert is still better

Despite shortcomings, current prime minister better than other options

The anger against Olmert is understandable but unwise. I believe that morality remains a philosophical issue.


Today there are more tourists in Israel than we’ve seen in a long time, employment is up, unemployment is down to the lowest figures in years, the diplomatic situation isn’t good yet still better than what it was in the past, and there are signs of diplomatic moves that may bear fruit one of these days. The economy is growing and every kid flies to India, whereas when we were young we mostly traveled to Ramat Gan and only the wealthy could afford to travel all the way to Haifa.


The security situation is indeed not good in the Gaza region and Ashkelon suffers, yet the IDF has recovered and will be able to address the situation, because the defense minister knows something about security. Minister Livni is creating excellent foreign relationships yet everyone complains about that too.


Yet if we have elections and Bibi is elected, Effie Eitam or someone like him will become defense minister. The IDF will enter Gaza. Our soldiers will be abducted and killed. Hundreds of Palestinians will be killed, and the Israelis will destroy and shatter anything that moves. And then, after this destruction, a few Hamas men will sit in their hideouts and fire Qassams. Nothing good will come out of this mess.


Instead of the people being delighted about its improving condition despite the blows in Sderot, the people slam the prime minister because he sinned. This is the same people that turned income tax cheating into a national sport, and that as long as it can it will improvise as much as possible. The most famous people here are Hollywood celebrities and oligarchs or crime families that are honored on television every two days. Ever since when do Israelis become frightened by greed? Wasn’t Sharon greedy?


There is no doubt that the stories about the prime minister are revolting, but it used to be disgusting around here in the old times too. At least then they committed suicide in shame. Is there any shame left today? Is Olmert the only shameless one? After all, most of our leaders since the 1970s dealt with bargaining and trading; wealth played with politics and politics played with wealth.


We need to build new system, but when?

And where do the country’s leaders live these days? There’s no one like Begin anymore who lives in a modest apartment; there is no longer a Ben Gurion living in a small house or a Sapir living in a one-bedroom apartment in Kfar Saba. Most of our leaders do not need cash-filled envelopes. They get rich through the people they know. If they were generals in the army they can make a fortune through arms deals in places where one becomes familiar with the customs only by being a general.


I do not think that Olmert did not sin. He apparently did terrible things, yet he wasn’t as wise as they thought and did not weigh his moves properly. Others like him did it more cautiously.


Indeed, we need to build a new system. But when? Now of all times, when things are going well? After all, who around here had not sinned? Who among the country’s leaders has no thirst like Olmert’s for the good life, expensive watches, and luxury apartments?


Bibi lives both in Jerusalem and in Caesarea; Barak lives in a luxury apartment. After all, at the end Olmert will not hand over the reigns to this wise woman, Livni, a modest and honest woman who has something strong in her. So we shall have elections, and the Likud Central Committee will be back. Slowly it will build the new Olmertism, which emerged out of that same Central Committee. Everything will remain the same. Will the country flourish then too?


I am not a character witness on behalf of Olmert. I do not think he is a decent man. He is also a man who despises culture. Yet what is better for this people, which doesn’t know what is good for it? Another year or two of a government that allows the economy to flourish despite all the trouble we’ve had here forever? Or is it better to risk it with people who think that handing over parts of the Land of Israel is treason?


I don’t know, but I’m asking. As naïve and foolish as I am, I suggest that we think for a moment whether in this country, where one hand washes the other and nobody has any shame, is it possible to have any kind of moral conduct.


פרסום ראשון: 06.02.08, 17:43
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