By Shimon Z. Klein 

The Winograd Report has come out. This has caused a stir in the handling of the Lebanese War of July/August 2006. The “triumvirate” (PM Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister, Amir Peretz and the former Chief –of –Staff, Dan Halutz) of Israel were blamed for the way the war was conducted and its resulting failure. The war ended inconclusively. The Israeli Army went into Lebanon causing wanton destruction and death of many Lebanese citizens as well as Israeli soldiers in their line of duty. It left Hezbollah relatively unscathed as their firing of Katyusha rockets deep into Israel continued until a declaration of a cease-fire. This caused much damage to property as well as many Israeli civilian deaths. The war was an exercise in futility and had damaged Israel’s deterrent power. Decisions to go to war were rash, bad and unnecessary. There was no planned strategy from the beginning as was obvious when Katyusha rockets rained on Israel with impunity, irrespective of Israel’s air strikes.

The Winograd Report resulted in a rather strange paradox. The left and right wing in Israel joined hands in their common desire to force Olmert and Peretz to resign from their positions in the cabinet because of their failure in the war.

On 3rd May 4, 2007, a huge demonstration was held in Rabin Square (which is well known for many demonstrations including the tragic evening when PM Yitschak Rabin was assassinated on 5th November 1995) in Tel Aviv. Both the left wing and the right wing supporters of the occupation joined forces in this strange demonstration.  It remains incomprehensible why the left wing took part. The right wing has an obvious goal and that is to replace PM Olmert with the right wing Likud leader, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. The left wing, by default although not by intention, has played into the hands of Netanyahu’s supporters in trying to achieve this. It would have been prudent of the left to abstain from demonstrations against the pathetic Olmert-Peretz leadership. The left wing has no viable alternative to Olmert or Netanyahu. Ehud Barak, another prime ministerial failure wishes to make a come back. This is as ridiculous as it is pathetic! There does not seem to be a viable alternative to the bad Olmert Government.

The demonstration would have served a greater purpose had the demonstrators called for the resignation of the government on the grounds that it is weak and unable to carry out meaningful negotiations for peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours as well as a call for an ending of the occupation. The right wing settler movements would not have come to demonstrate. This would have sent a positive message on the desire to make peace and pressured the weak, corruption-ridden government of Olmert to resign.

Bibi Netanyahu has had his turn at being prime minister and was a failure. When he served as finance minister, he introduced a draconian “support and growth tax” in order to increase the income of the government’s coffers at the expense of the weaker public sector whose earning power is poor. People had to pay this tax and there was no accountability for it. The excuse was that Israel’s economy had to be bailed out of the doldrums that it was in at the time. Meanwhile some Likud members were raking in cash at the tax payers’ expense. This included the director of the Income Tax Authority, Jackie Matza and his friends, one of whom is the director of the PM Office, who is now on the verge of being put on trial for bribery and corruption. All this occurred during the time that the Likud was in power. How short the Israeli memory is! All the corruption scandals occurred during the Likud Coalition under Ariel Sharon prior to the 2006 Israeli Elections. When Ariel Sharon left the Likud over the disengagement fiasco and formed the Kadima party, many Likud members, with a dubious past in clean government, joined him. People like Tzachi Hanegbi, Avraham Hirschson (the recently resigned Finance Minister) and even PM Ehud Olmert are under suspicion of corruption, just to mention a few. Considering all these factors, it is scandalous enough for the electorate to demand the government’s resignation without the added findings of the Winograd Report. Is it possible that the Israeli Electorate (which is now growing more right wing) wishes to return failed party political hacks back into the government?

If, by remote chance, the government forms a caretaker government because of public pressure, and elections are declared within a few months, the electorate will not change its voting patterns. The result will once again not allow any party to gain an absolute majority as has been the case since Israel’s establishment. The Israeli Electoral system is so flawed that going to vote has become an exercise in futility and frustration. In any case, one will always land up with a coalition of opposites that is incapable of making decisions for good, clean government and for the achievement of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

It looks as if the bruised Olmert, who is a shrewd politician in his own right, will weather the storm of protest and survive albeit in a further weakened state.

All that remains for the Israeli Electorate under these conditions is to place a white paper in the ballot box to register disgust for a voting system that ensures ongoing chaos in the formation of any new government.

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