Olmert China 298.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
The government is wounded; it's bleeding; and all those near enough to smell the blood are sinking their teeth in the prime minister to take yet another bite of his flesh.
I confess: I am a "friend of Olmert." But what worries me is not Ehud Olmert's personal fate; it is the state of the country that I am concerned about.
Like in that old Jewish joke, in which as the dying father lies on his deathbed, and the whole family gathers around him, he asks, "So who's minding the store?"
I think we can assume that running a country is at least as hard as running a store. A grocery would go bankrupt if its owner were occupied day and night with other matters. That is exactly what is happening here in Israel right now. Even in normal times, the job of prime minister demands endless energy. There are so many different and important areas and subjects that have a claim to his time and attention: The government as a collective and each of the ministers separately, the coalition as a collective and each of the parties separately, the party as a collective and each of the party members separately, the members of the party as a collective and each of the Knesset members separately, the public as a collective and each of public figures separately, the media as a collective and the newspapers separately, the world as a collective and each of world leaders separately - the person able to divide his attention among all of these equally has not yet been born, with each demanding considerable time and thought, as well as decisions.
TO ALL of these should be added public inquiries, such as the Winograd Commission, the criminal investigations, such as the one into the Bank Leumi bid, which make it necessary to study the material and prepare answers that could, on the personal level, turn out to be crucial. And then there are the documents and letters one has to read and respond to, and one has to consult with experts and talk to friends and go out into the field and make speeches and receive delegations and participate in events.
Even under optimal conditions, this is an effectively impossible task. This is all the more so in the current bloodthirsty atmosphere, when every slip of the tongue or slight lapse is exposed for all to see, to the sounds of malicious glee. The media appear to all be conducting a lethal competition to see who will manage to smear, harm, condemn, besmirch and mock the prime minister the most on any given day.
How could anyone work under such conditions, much less run a country or make major decisions? The grocery store that Ehud Olmert is responsible for belongs to us all. If he is forced to neglect it in order to defend himself, it comes at our expense.
Some might respond at this point: So, why doesn't he resign?
Ehud Olmert is the head of the largest party; he was elected prime minister by a large majority of the Knesset; he is the leader of a broad coalition, larger than any seen in recent years. He is convinced of his innocence and he believes that he will be able to lead the country to better times - if he is only given the chance. So why should he resign? To satisfy his rivals and enemies?
Criticism is of course a basic element of democracy. Even when it is not justified. Even when it is malicious. But what is happening now is what happens in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. The fire department's hoses are not spraying water; they are spraying oil.
The writer is a former MK.