Analysis: The real opposition leader strikes again

The Israeli who has come closest to filling opposition leader’s traditional role has been State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.

311_Micha Lindenstrauss (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
311_Micha Lindenstrauss
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
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.
The 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 Micha Lindenstrauss.
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.
Lindenstrauss 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 Wednesday.
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.
Steinitz took the opposite approach, deciding the best defense was a good offense.
He 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 camera.
In closed conversations, Steinitz was even more fierce.
He 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 guys.
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 abroad.
It is that report which will craft Lindenstrauss’s legacy. It will determine how effective an opposition leader he ended up being.