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(photo credit: AP [file])
Hours before the crowds flocked to a Tel Aviv demonstration to call for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's resignation Thursday, one did not have to be a professional pollster to gauge the popularity of Israel's leaders on Jerusalem's streets.
Capital residents responded with dreary shrugs and pessimistic answers to questions about their faith in the government and its leadership in the wake of this week's publication of the Winograd Committee's interim report.
Many brushed off questions about the specifics of the report, saying they had not read the document and were not familiar with its recommendations. "I haven't yet formulated an opinion on the report itself," said 26-year-old Nava Bachar as she folded men's designer shirts in a Talpiot store.
But even without having read the document, she said: "We're lost. I think that that is the word that best describes the situation in the country."
The business management student said that she believed that "reordering the country is the only thing that can save us," but stressed that without a change in leadership - report or no - she didn't think that such a reordering was possible.
"Leadership is the quality most lacking now. I don't feel secure with our leaders. We need different people, people with ideology like in the past - not just political interests. We need someone who sets real achievable values. We need someone who will give us hope. That's all," Bachar concluded.
Meters away and minutes later, two veteran olim who chose to remain nameless expressed similar opinions. "We're very pessimistic. There's simply no respect for anybody," said the grey-haired woman. "The government is simply dishonest, and there's nobody working for the good of the country."
"The prime minister is an absolute ignoramous," the man next to her moaned. "This is no longer the Israel of the pioneers. The love of the country isn't the same now. It still exists, but is different. And as for the politiciansâ€¦. Herzl, Ben-Gurion - you can't mention these guys in the same breath."
In fact, not a single person interviewed on the streets and in the shops of south Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood expressed confidence in the current leadership.
Most people spoke of the report as the latest in a long series of politician-related scandals that have filled the news in past months. That outlook was reflected by Ofer, a 37-year-old Jerusalem English teacher.
"The leaders have not proven themselves - other than their ability to steal," he said, adding that the government must be immediately ousted. "Olmert won't resign in light of Winograd. He won't because he's corrupt. Other than property and money, he doesn't care about anything."
Ofer, like the two olim, Bachar, and a kippa-clad taxi driver all agreed that there was a lack of honest leadership to inspire the country. "I don't believe that there is a single honest MK among them," Ofer said.
As a solution, he suggested speeding up investigations - and punishments - against wayward public servants. "Corruption, mistakes and poverty. We are sinking deeper and deeper into a pit. For this we established a country of our own?"
Commenting later to The Jerusalem Post on the public mood evidenced in such comments, media strategist Amir Dan, director-general of McCann Press, suggested that the sheer number of political scandals might, ironically, prove to be Olmert's salvation.
"State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss helped to ensure that Olmert would be able to remain in office following the publication of the [Winograd] report," Dan said.
"In the past year-and-a-half we have been exposed to story after story of investigations and probes launched against Olmert by Lindenstrauss," he explained. "Each time, it's a different story but the same theme. This functions like drug abuse - the first time you hear such a scandal, it's very exciting, but each consecutive scandal's impact becomes smaller and smaller."
"The public has become used to hearing Olmert's name tied to scandals. And eventually, it is likely that this interim report will simply be positioned as yet another chapter as part of the bigger story."