Another Tack: Olmert's 're-etrogization'

With things looking worse for Olmert, it's best he get the Left to love him all over again

Left-wing columnist Yael Paz-Melamed recently predicted in Ma'ariv that Ehud Olmert may rise - phenomenally - from the dead in what must be regarded as the most miraculous political resurrection ever. Only a few weeks back, notes Paz-Melamed, Olmert was "the walking dead, sinking into the no-agenda mire." His problem wasn't the mess he created, the deterrent he destroyed for his menaced state, his irresolute management of a war he launched, his indifference to the distress of civilians left to fend for themselves under rocket fire or his cynical ploy to exploit his war as a hoist for pulling off another disengagement/convergence/realignment (his linguistic adroitness is admirable). Olmert disappointed Paz-Melamed only by appearing to have given those abominated settlers a wee respite from the threat of mass eviction. Leftist approval hinges on socking it to much-reviled rightist opponents. (Just see how Haaretz's Yoel Marcus and Uzi Benziman cheered the installment of Oslo's unrepentant master-illusionist as a hyperactive president itching to "get rid of the territories.") Therein lies the key to political survival in our land. But suddenly an agenda of the sort Paz-Melamed endorses seems to be popping up. Olmert kisses up to Fatah figurehead and "good terrorist" Mahmoud Abbas. Paz-Melamed commends Olmert for releasing 255 terrorists to "bolster" Abbas, for halting the pursuit of the most-wanted villains, etc. Olmert's latest banter about removing Judea and Samaria settlements must, given Paz-Melamed's views, vindicate the most fervent hopes pinned on him. Moreover, he pledges not to revert to unilateralism. His projected settlements-surrender will assume the form of a handover - to Abbas's trusted custody. That should help the vast majority of Israelis - who reside in the dense urban sprawl within rocket range of the country's long convoluted eastern flank - sleep so much more soundly at night. Any rocket fired from Kalkilya or Tulkarm is sure to hit something or someone where no open barren spaces, like the Western Negev's, exist to absorb some misspent firepower. Disengagement, incidentally, abandoned Gush Katif to Abbas as well. Yet instead of deriving any boost therefrom, he somehow only managed to get himself booted out and replaced by Hamas. It really matters diddly whether this scenario identically replicates itself in Judea and Samaria. We only get to choose between Fatah bombardments or Hamas barrages. Death by shrapnel from one is just as final as death by the other. ONE THING is certain: A disengagement sequel will make the suffering of Sderot pale before the bloodbath in central Israel. There's also the pesky problem of ejecting multitudes of additional veteran settlers who for the past two years have beheld officialdom's callous apathy to the fate of Gush Katif refugees. That's unlikely to inspire cooperation or confidence in bureaucratic compassion among targeted expellees-to-be. Surely as wily a fox as Olmert realizes this. So why his renewed neo-disengagement prattle? It's an insurance policy. The Winograd Committee's ax will eventually be lowered. The state controller continues to review several serious alleged Olmert transgressions, and the prosecution must decide how to proceed with investigations of Olmert's possibly felonious hanky-panky. With things looking like they may get far worse than they already are for Olmert, it's best he gets the Left to love him all over again. Olmert must reinvent himself as the proverbial etrog - the citron which observant Jews keep exceptionally protected for Succot. According to left-wing media-mentor Amnon Abramowitz, everything is overlooked and forgiven for badly misbehaving politicians who atone by making themselves useful to the above-all-else cause of thrashing the Right/settlers. Such politicians, Abramowitz stressed in reference to then-premier Ariel Sharon, "must be treated like the precious etrog, cushioned by cotton wool, wrapped in cellophane and sheltered inside a sturdy box." Already pre-disengagement Abramowitz made the etrog an indispensable entry in Israel's political thesaurus. He essentially handed us the decrypting code for what motivated Sharon to turn an ideological 180-degrees and become the settlers' arch-antagonist after years of egging them on. Sharon got himself into blistering legal hot water when caught infringing political funding regulations and then covering-up with illicit financing. He might have ended up behind bars, though his offenses were minor compared to the whopping con run by Ehud Barak during the 1999 election - the same year in which Sharon transgressed in the Likud primary (to beat then-inconsequential Olmert, of all people). Barak too got caught. The state controller called his "the greatest scam ever" and levied the highest-ever fine on Labor, NIS 13.8 million. But mystery of mysteries - the police pursued the investigation against Barak and co-conspirators (including Labor-darling Isaac Herzog) with mind-blowing reluctance and lethargy. Barak, Herzog & Co. kept mum, the police didn't press the matter, the press didn't howl, two underlings were indicted on trifling charges, and the case withered with the avid complicity of the watchdog media. Sharon and his legal eagles were no fools. They spotted the double standard - prosecution alacrity and journalistic hysteria for them versus near-silence and inaction toward Barak (accused of significantly greater infractions in a national election yet, as distinct from a party primary). It took no rocket science to deduce that Barak, though an ineffective flunky, was still flesh of the Left's flesh, the most eager-to-appease territorially of his predecessors and unilateral withdrawal's progenitor. While Barak was getting away with a colossal brazen swindle, Sharon was about to have the book thrown at him for lots less, probably because as a firebrand right-winger he was anathema to establishment opinion-molders. The quickest and surest way to avoid doing time was to endear himself to the Left. Sharon excelled and relished resplendent in his etrog status, from which Olmert profusely benefited too. What we now witness is Olmert's re-etrogization.