Olmert wanted to be seen as a leader who was not afraid to go against the grain, just like Sharon.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert found himself in a position after the war in Lebanon where he would be damned whether or not he formed a state commission of inquiry to investigate the blunders of that conflict.
If he would have formed such a commission, he would have faced accusations of being a weak politician who gave into public pressure. He could have gone down in history as a prime minister who dug his own grave.
Forming a government committee instead also resulted in inevitable political condemnation. Politicians from Left and Right competed with statements mocking Olmert's irresponsibility and cowardice.
But it is just those condemnations that Olmert was banking on receiving. He wanted to be seen as a leader who was not afraid to go against the grain, just like his predecessor Ariel Sharon.
It was no coincidence that ahead of his decision, Olmert invited former Sharon advisers Dov Weisglass, Uri Shani and Lior Chorev back to the Prime Minister's Office from their exile away from decision-making circles. The words they advised Olmert to say were taken straight from Sharon's old speeches.
"It would have helped me politically to appoint a state commission of inquiry but it wouldn't have been good for the country," Olmert said in a statement that perhaps only Sharon could have gotten away with saying without sounding insincere.
Olmert is hoping that he can create a public backlash against the people who wanted to bring down his government using a state inquiry commission. His message was that he is working for the good of the country and that his political opponents have personal aims in mind and not the other way around.
"Political operatives wanted to give Assad, Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad what they didn't get in a month of war," Chorev said. "They wanted the army and the political leadership besmirched. But leadership doesn't have to play into the hands of the enemy."
Olmert's strategists said that had he formed a state commission of inquiry, he might have gotten a standing ovation but if another war would start and the army would not be ready because it was waiting for the results of a lengthy investigation, there would have to be another commission of inquiry.
Such statements comparing Olmert's opponents to the enemies of the Jewish people and blaming them for a war that has not happened yet might seem to be going a bit far, but Olmert's spinners needed to go to an extreme to turn around his image.
Unlike Sharon, Olmert is not up against the settlers or the Likud central committee, two groups that have been maligned for years. The people protesting against him are reserve soldiers and the Movement for Quality Government, Israeli versions of motherhood and apple pie.
Olmert wants his condemnation by his critics to come back against them like a boomerang, but he is taking a grave risk. If the strategy doesn't work, he could find that the boomerang is aimed at him and it could knock him off his chair at the Prime Minister's Office.
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