Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has enjoyed more than three years in power
with a tattered, divided and ineffective opposition.
Three MKs have held
the post of opposition leader – Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz and Shelly Yechimovich
– and none of the three has caused Netanyahu any real problems. Livni’s
criticism tended to boomerang against her, Yechimovich focuses only on the
economy and Mofaz had trouble attracting any attention at all.
Israeli who has come closest to filling the opposition leader’s traditional role
as the chief thorn in the side of the prime minister has been State Comptroller
Following Wednesday’s release of Lindenstrauss’s report on
the December 2010 Carmel fire disaster, the opposition could not even decide
whom to blame.
Yechimovich blasted Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On defended Steinitz and attacked Interior Minister Eli
Yishai. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid focused only on Netanyahu, and none of the
National Union MKs even bothered to release a statement.
has proven he knows how to play the political game better than the professional
politicians. He writes reports that demand a full day of news coverage, uses
superlatives to draw attention and even knows to check the schedule of the Euro
2012 soccer tournament when timing his reports’ releases, to make sure he does
not have competition.
Like the best teams in the tournament, Yishai and
Steinitz spent months preparing their defenses against their opponent
Lindenstrauss, culminating in the very different strategies they employed on
Yishai went all out in choreographing his defense. He hired
the judge who investigated the Second Lebanon War as his lawyer, produced a
defense video and responded to the report in the North surrounded by bereaved
families proclaiming his innocence.
In his reaction to the report, he
embraced Lindenstrauss and vowed to do everything possible to ensure that his
recommendations would be implemented as soon as possible.
the opposite approach, deciding the best defense was a good offense.
attacked the report as “delusional,” claimed Lindenstrauss did not understand a
finance minister’s role and refused to dignify the report by responding to it on
In closed conversations, Steinitz was even more fierce.
mocked Lindenstrauss, saying that if what the comptroller wrote about his
culpability was true, he was also responsible for the Gaza Strip flotilla,
traffic accidents and anyone dying of sickness who could have been saved by a
different decision about the health basket.
Steinitz believes the
comptroller blamed him because finance ministers are easy prey. They force
ministers to make budget cuts, so it is easy to paint them as the bad
He pointed out that when Lindenstrauss released his initial report
on the fire, its main villain had not been he, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
But since then, Barak has publicly praised Lindenstrauss up and down on numerous
occasions, so Lindenstrauss needed a new villain.
Netanyahu employed a
third strategy Wednesday. He decided just to kick the ball up field, announcing
that he needed to time to “study the report,” which was actually made available
to him a week ago.
This cautious approach was logical for a man who knows
that Lindenstrauss’s next report is about him. Next month, Lindenstrauss will
release his final report, which will criticize Netanyahu’s trips
It is that report which will craft Lindenstrauss’s legacy. It
will determine how effective an opposition leader he ended up being.