(photo credit: )
The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem
The juries are still out on all of this. However, a reading of much media over a long time gives rise to the following conclusions:
Israel's president is a serial rapist, or at least a major offender of sexual norms.
Israel's prime minister is guilty of feathering his own nests at public expense.
Israel's defense minister is so far over his head as to be useless at best. Or a danger at worse.
It does not help one's shame to identify political leaders in other countries who are causing more trouble to their countries, including more waste of resources, loss of life, and outright shameful behavior. We are stuck with our own problems, and they stink so greatly as to cloud any attempt to explain or apologize to ourselves or others.
None of this should come as a surprise. Reports are that the president's personal proclivities were well known before he was chosen for the office. No less guilty than him are the members of Knesset who voted for him, perhaps for no greater reason than their unwillingness to vote for Shimon Peres. Now Shimon Peres is again a candidate for the presidency, and commentators give him a good chance of victory. If so, we will hear several times a day of his hope for a New Middle East, which only he and a few other diehards see as a likely scenario. His drumbeat will be only marginally less annoying than unending laments about the quality of other officials.
For years the media has portrayed Ehud Olmert as a man on the fringe of legitimate behavior. Time after time he has come up against severe criticism, which has fallen short of ending his career due to a lack of certainty as to how serious was the offense. Each violation of the norms may be trivial, but they have accumulated to a load that is difficult to tolerate. Survey opinion counts for something, and his standing is as bad as it gets.
The defense minister was a dynamic demagogue in the labor field, who could engineer national strikes for the benefit of workers already well off by virtue of controlling key sectors of the economy. For the really poor, he had only well chosen words. There was virtually no support for his choice as defense minister, except for those who feared his selection to a position that might threaten the economy. The ministries of immigrant absorption, religion, environment, social welfare, or communications were not distinguished enough for the man who had maneuvered himself into the leadership of the Labor Party. Perhaps the institutions of the military kept him from doing too much damage in the recent war. I have not heard anyone say that he has the skill to contribute to what the military must do in order to get ready for whatever is coming next.
Sadly, the only explanation that comes to my mind is that politicians do not care when they vote a colleague into an office. They do not take the trouble to reckon with likely problems. They do what is simple and convenient. If the performance is bad enough, one worthy or another will take action to clean the stable, and they can join the chorus of condemning all that they had tolerated. Then their own star may rise, and they can take advantage of greater power and other privileges.
That is politics as we know it. Someone send me a good joke. Maybe these stories are the joke.
Cafe Oleh is the place where you can join in and be published. To send us your comments, article ideas, suggestions and community listings, click here. In the meantime, check out our comprehensive listings and calendar services.