Olmert's Coup

Olmert's legacy and Binyamin Netanyahu's burden.

Dr. Moshe Dann,

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Like it or not, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has changed Israeli politics. Never before has disregard for the public will been so blatant and ruinous to Israel's national psyche, stamina and cohesion.

Accountability threatens incompetence, corruption and venality no matter who rules.

Such behavior is not new; what is different is the way in which it is done, the extent to which it has undermined public confidence, and the depth of that wound.

Politicians are naturally filled with arrogance and self-service; few are ready to admit mistakes - until they can't hide anymore. Olmert's greed, however, is not only an individual fault; it reflects a system that has become utterly corrupted.

Buying off or destroying the opposition is, as political theorists have noted, standard practice. It is the grease for compromise in representative democracies. Dictatorships tolerate no opposition. But opposition in democracies, to be meaningful, must be effective and able to articulate a coherent alternative agenda. This does not exist in Israel. The major opposition party has no alternative national agenda.

That democracy is based on consensus, albeit with many falling through the cracks, is the social adhesive that protects and empowers all of its citizens. Lacking that sense of common purpose, however, is a failure that no society can afford, or long survive. That is Olmert's legacy and Binyamin Netanyahu's burden.

Having shaken the foundations of public faith in the system, Olmert-Ehud Barak-Tzipi Livni-Haim Ramon-Eli Yishai, as Kadima-Labor-Shas, and other major political elements are dedicated to ensuring that the system (and their power) be maintained and preserved, rather than reformed. Accountability threatens incompetence, corruption and venality no matter who rules.

Nevertheless, a new political awareness is emerging which can, in time, create a real social and political revolution; a change in the system by which Israel is misgoverned, and even a re-dedication to the basic Jewish and Zionist ideas and values which are the core of Israel's existence.

Olmert's coup, therefore, supported by all those who benefit from his largesse, is to be welcomed. This is the only way in which Israelis can understand the true nature and extent of corruption and its effects. Political consciousness comes out of dissatisfaction and critical thinking, not ensuring the Old Order.

The problem is not that Olmert rules for himself (and his cronies); he has demonstrated how a wily politician can use the system to his advantage. Fighting for one's political life is what those in power do. Rather, we must ask what the alternative is. Diverted by petty scandals, we fail to see the greater exploitation.

This inquiry demands a careful examination and investigation of every major institution by public committees, objective and bi-partisan, staffed by professionals. At this point, the only public body capable of such a task is the Office of the State Comptroller. The Knesset, composed largely of politicians whose primary interest is not to investigate or change the system, is incapable of this task. A combination of universities, colleges and dedicated public servants, like Yaron Zalekha (the former Accountant General) might provide the necessary commitment and thoroughness. Students could also be employed, as they are often idealistic and less susceptible to bribery and corruption.

Formidable obstacles are the business and financial elites whose profits and enormous power may suffer. They will try to sabotage any real reforms. Legislation must be introduced to criminalize and hopefully limit their
Diverted by petty scandals, we fail to see the greater exploitation.

Olmertism means individual survival takes precedence over enormous national issues. He and his entire government have taught us what it's all about: Me First. That Olmert represents the abuse of power is clear. That his tenure violates the nature and values of democracy is obvious. That he and his government remain in power, however, is legal, and a shame upon us all.

What you can do:

1) Insist that you will only vote for a party that is committed to serious electoral reform based on the principle of accountability and responsibility.

2) Demand that any party wishing to receive your support must include a broad, comprehensive and specific national agenda.

3) Protest - with dignity and self-respect - the appearance of politicians who refuse to accept electoral change at social, business and communal gatherings, union meetings and official events.

4) Believe in the future of a Jewish Zionist country, our homeland in Eretz Yisrael.

5) Don't despair! Energize and organize.