Wednesday, May 02, 2007

On the Face

Orange might be back in style. Photo: Anti-disengagement poster
in Jerusalem, December 2005. The Hebrew caption reads, "Again expulsion?"

It looks as if Tsipi Livni has taken a horrible dive. The situation is truly "on the face." How did she let Olmert play her like this? It is remarkable to watch Israel's own "slippery eel" (this is actually what the Koreans call UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon) holding and holding on.

Only two other Kadima MKs joined Livni's "revolt" - the head of the coalition, Avigdor Yitzhaki, and the backbencher, Marina Solodkin. Minister of Internal Security Avi Dichter (Kadima) shed a few crocodile tears and remarked that it would be a shame if Livni were sacked from the foreign ministry.

Of course, Shimon Peres (Kadima) still knows how to pick a winner; he is coveting Livni's post for himself, and who knows, maybe he'll even want to succeed Olmert as Kadima's candidate in the next election, which he would lose like nearly every other election he has run in. For what it's worth though, President Jimmy Carter gave Peres a ringing endorsement at a Berkeley lecture earlier today. He couldn't remember Livni's name, but he said that she might be the other politician, beside Peres, whom he would like to see as the next Israeli PM.

The other Olmert apparatchik thinking about the future is Minister of Housing and Construction, Meir Sheetrit, who will surely be rewarded with a promotion for his loyalty. Sheetrit has already announced his plans to run for the head of the party in future Kadima primaries. Meanwhile, Olmert is mulling over what he should do to Livni. It's hard to see her staying in her current post, not after publicly calling on Olmert to resign, but stranger things have happened- I give her a 20% chance. Livni has been keeping a low profile for so long, it's truly bizarre that Olmert seems to have found an opportunity to purge her like this; especially the day after the release of a report that basically handed him a sword to fall into, while singling out Livni for praise.

We live in interesting times. But this story is not over. While Amir Peretz, too, believes that he can stay in power, he faces far more determined opposition from his own Labor party, with plenty of disgruntled people in the Ami Ayalon camp, and a few looking to former PM Ehud Barak. Plus, Olmert may feel that if he wants to stay in power, he should sack or move Peretz to shore up his right flank. Who knows what forces that might set in motion?

Finally, we have good old 'am yisro'el, the people that all these clowns are supposed to be representing. This עם קשה עורף [stiff-necked people] might have a few tricks up its sleeves too, though it is equally likely that most Israelis are too disillusioned to care, especially when the prime minister has shown such contempt for public opinion.

The question is how broad of a coalition the demonstrations planned for Thursday can draw to protest against the government. I have a feeling that the protest will be a sea of orange. The settlers and the religious Zionist youth are extremely organized and committed to this kind of activism. They also have a score to settle with Olmert, the man who helped Sharon take them out of Gaza and threatened to force them into making 'aliyah from Judea and Samaria to the State of Israel. But if the blues don't show up, then it will be easy for Olmert and his loyalists to dismiss the demonstration as a sectarian affair, not representative of the Israeli public at large. It would also make Labor MKs more reluctant about leaving the government and going into new elections. But perhaps the reservists, the bereaved parents, Meretz, the students, and Uzi Dayan will be able to turn this into a more representative coalition.

No comments: