Sunday 27 July 2008

Pursuing Olmert

I concluded a long time ago that being a straightforward person with a squeaky clean record is not a requirement to enter politics in Israel. It seems to me that such a record may actually work against any aspiring Israeli politician. When examining the current motley crew that make up the 120 elected lawmakers of the State of Israel, few if any of the members of the Knesset possess anything near to a clean track record. Quite a number of these members, including members of the cabinet, are currently facing lawsuits and police investigations for activities that are dodgy by anybody's standards. Judging by this state of affairs, one could be led to believe that prospective candidates for the Knesset should have been subject to at least one police investigation before their candidacy is accepted.

Against this background, how do we interpret the myriad of investigations and charges that are being levelled against Prime Minster Olmert? On the one hand, it is shameful that one person can have so many skeletons in his closet. All the more so when this person has served in public roles for so many years. It begs the question how he could have had time to carry out his job when he was so busy with apartment sales, receipts of brown paper envelopes and other questionable activities. There is a clear implication that the individuals who were involved in these dodgy deals, were doing so with the expectation of something in return. It creates more than a little insecurity for the country's citizens when it is understood that this is the same person making fateful decisions regarding the country's future in such delicate times. What sort of judgement is being applied to these decisions?

On the other hand, one cannot help but get the feeling that somebody is after Olmert at any price. By his previous actions, Olmert is making the work of this individual very easy. Nonetheless, there appears to be a campaign to smear the PM and to bring him down in any way possible. As a result, one episode after another is leaked to the blood-hungry press. The way in which it is being done does make me wonder whether some of the stories are not fabricated or twisted to portray Olmert in a worse light. The result of all of these stories is to cause Israel to look ridiculous in the eyes of the outside world, and to cause a great deal of insecurity inside Israel.

But more importantly, these stories act to divert Olmert's attention from matters of state that he should be attending to. When a country has minor matters on its plate such as a war on its southern border, a dramatic arms build-up on its northern border, the development of nuclear arms by one of its sworn enemies and prisoner swaps for its citizens held in captivity by enemy forces - not to mention a dire water shortage, failing education and an economy on the verge of a downturn - it is a requirement that the full attention of the Prime Minister is on the job to hand. How can Olmert do a proper day's work as PM when his time is taken up answering police questions and rebutting stories in the press.

The correct time for skeletons to be let out of the closet is at the time of the general election. All the stories now being publicised took place prior to Olmert's election as PM and are not related to his election to the post. Why were they not made known before he was elected so that the public could vote with all the facts to hand? Was there some sinister plot to allow him to take office first before discrediting him? The price being paid by Israel and its citizens is too high at this critical juncture in its history.

What the country needs right now is a PM, Olmert or somebody else, with both hands on the steering wheel. Seeing as it looks unlikely that Olmert will be replaced before the next general election, he should be allowed to continue his work unhindered. At the next general election, the citizens can take into account what they now know about Olmert to select the new Prime Minister.

Whilst Olmert's current public ratings are dismal, it is not guaranteed that he will be replaced at the next poll. After all, look who we have to choose from.

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