Olmert Administration “A Clear and Present Danger”: Haaretz Editorial

A Clear and Present Danger

“Israel’s advantage of proper democratic governance is being eroded by embarrassing ego games.”

“The unacceptable explanation offered for this state of affairs is that Olmert intends to replace the defense minister, but is postponing the move for political reasons. This cowardice attests to Olmert’s inability to govern.”

Full text:

No commission of inquiry is needed in order to realize that the fact that the prime and defense ministers are not speaking to each other is a clear and present danger to national security. This grave situation has continued since the war in Lebanon ended, but the public is not fully aware of its gravity. All the conciliatory statements emanating from both ministers’ offices are false, as are the smiles they exchange in front of the cameras. The state is not being governed, and there is no coordination between Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz on the most vital issues.

Just yesterday, a scandalous letter that Peretz sent to Olmert, which demanded that construction work on the Temple Mount be stopped, was publicized. Instead of this sensitive matter being discussed privately and seriously, things are evidently being done without coordination, and the defense minister simply responds to events.

The unacceptable explanation offered for this state of affairs is that Olmert intends to replace the defense minister, but is postponing the move for political reasons. This cowardice attests to Olmert’s inability to govern. The prime minister – who complains that criminal investigations are disrupting the government’s work and therefore, in order to demonstrate his dissatisfaction, quickly and provocatively appointed a like-minded justice minister – has been incapable for months of choosing a defense minister who will help him ensure the security of Israel’s citizens. The question is no longer whether Peretz is suitable for the post, or whether the Labor Party will agree to replace him. The situation in which the two are incapable of working together is frightening in and of itself.

It is hard to put faith in the government’s declarations about Israel Defense Forces activity on the Lebanese or Gazan borders, its policy on the settlement outposts and the considerations that have led it to acquire new weapons systems – let alone its handling of the Iranian nuclear issue or its contacts with the Palestinian Authority – when these issues are dealt with mainly via the media, and every statement by one side immediately prompts a dismissive response by the other. The offices of the prime and defense ministers are too reminiscent of those of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, and Israel’s advantage of proper democratic governance is being eroded by embarrassing ego games.

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh says that publication of Peretz’s letter about the Temple Mount caused consternation in the Defense Ministry. But the very fact that a letter had to be sent from one ministry to the other on such a sensitive matter, which is liable to result in loss of life, attests to the enormity of the crisis. The work on the Temple Mount, as well as the operations along the Lebanese border, are both matters with the potential to spark a major conflagration, so it would have been reasonable to assume that the decisions were made knowledgeably and judiciously. But the current Israeli government has neither knowledge nor judgment, only politicians hunkering down within their own camps and among their own cronies, and it seems that grudges and vengeance have become substitutes for a national agenda.

If the prime minister wants to leave any positive impression at all before he is replaced, he must at least ensure that the defense establishment is headed by someone who enjoys the confidence of that establishment, and with whom he can work. And if Labor quits the government over the defense minister’s replacement, that will be a sign that it, too, is unsuited to lead the country.

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