On the back of the release of the Winograd Report, the general consensus in Israel is that Ehud Olmert’s political future is over.
Olmert’s predicament is that Winograd dropped enough hints throughout the report initimating that its main recommendation to Olmert is undeniably that he “take responsibility” in the fullest sense and resign.
Even Tzipi Livni has chimed in with calls for Olmert’s resignation.
She has become the most senior member of Olmert’s Kadima party and his ruling coalition to call on him to step down, further increasing the enormous pressure on him to quit.
While Olmert remains defiant, it’s hard to imagine how he will be able to hold onto his position.
For Israel however, this only deepens the leadership crisis. While Olmert was never embraced by the people of Israel, he was accepted due to the leadership vacuum left by Sharon. Who would replace him? Gregory Levey had this to say in February.
In poll results released on Feb. 8, 78 percent of Israelis said they were “unhappy” with their leaders, citing corruption, inexperience and self-centeredness as their main reasons. And 68 percent of them said that their current leaders were worse than those of the past.
In fact, one of the senior government officials I spoke to recently — usually silent on domestic political matters — was despondent not only about the current “leadership vacuum,” as he called it, but about the prospects for better leadership in the future. When I asked him about the chances that Livni, a skilled diplomat and relatively popular foreign minister, might one day be elected prime minister, he said, “She has no chance. The next prime minister will be a general.”
Yet, he was equally pessimistic about the prospects of Dan Halutz, the architect of the Lebanon War. Halutz, who was once widely considered Ariel Sharon’s presumptive heir and a future prime minister, recently stepped down from his position as army chief of staff. “He’s finished,” the senior government official said. And his view was no different regarding the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu, who remains highly popular with the Israeli public and is considered strong on national security. “The Israeli people are not stupid,” he said. “He had his chance and he failed.”
While Olmert is being used as the scapegoat for the 2006 farce, what isn’t being discussed is whether the root of the problem, Israel’s foreign policies, should be addressed. For the time being, Israel will be occupied with preventing the only democracy on the Middle East from self destructing.
Do these events really presage the collapse of the Israeli system of governance and democracy? There certainly has never been such a deep crisis of leadership in the country that touts itself as the only democracy in the Middle East. The leader of the ruling parliamentary coalition, Avigdor Yitzhaki, said so publicly a few days ago. And the Minister of Education has suggested that all schools devote special classes to the “government crisis”, so that children can speak out about what might well seem to them like a total collapse of all systems that control their lives. Suddenly the Palestinians and the Hizbullah, and even Iranian nukes, have taken a back seat: Israel does indeed seem in danger of imploding from within, at least as a viable democracy.