Electionscape: The blame game

Less than a day after Sharon's stroke, aides were briefing media about the wonderful PM Olmert will be.

anshel pfeffer 298.88 (photo credit: )
anshel pfeffer 298.88
(photo credit: )
It would be very difficult to find a more loyal team than the circle of aides and advisers around Ariel Sharon, but less than 24 hours after his massive stroke they were already briefing reporters on what a wonderful prime minister Ehud Olmert is going to be. Less than three years ago when, following the elections, Olmert - Sharon's No. 1 supporter - was miffed about not getting one of the top three cabinet jobs, he was fobbed off with a brace of ministerial portfolios and the job of vice prime minister. Everyone thought then that this was little more than a titular position, as the brilliant but unpopular Olmert wasn't on anyone's list of future successors. Except on Arik's. And with the (temporary for now) title, Olmert has inherited the best spin-doctors in Israeli politics, who have been planning since Thursday how to carry out what they now see as Sharon's legacy, ensuring Olmert's ascendancy and, even more important for them, making sure that not only will Binyamin Netanyahu not be elected as the next prime minister, but that his defeat will be so humiliating that he will be forced to leave politics forever. Until the stroke, the Kadima campaign strategy was to focus on Sharon and his leadership and almost totally disregard his rivals, Netanyahu and Amir Peretz. Since Olmert is not even one of the five most popular members of Kadima, according to last month's polls, the party has come up with a totally different tactic. Now Sharon's people are planning to focus on Netanyahu's and Peretz's weaknesses to highlight Olmert's competency. Since Olmert's most significant selling point is that he is Sharon's chosen heir, the party will be looking for a way to convince the voters that the last thing the beloved leader would have wanted was for Netanyahu to win. More than that, it will be looking for ways to actually place part of the blame for Sharon's illness on Netanyahu's shoulders. Or as one of Sharon's aides put it, "Who will the nation prefer? The man selected by Sharon, or Bibi who has been drinking Arik's blood for the last two years?" In comparison, Peretz is in for lighter treatment. He will be portrayed as unworthy due to his inexperience or, as the aide put it, "Israel doesn't need another unready prime minister," a reference to the not-so-successful premierships of Ehud Barak and Netanyahu. On Monday the Sharon team sent up a trial balloon of the "blame Bibi" variant. An anonymous source blamed Education Minister Limor Livnat for her vigorous attack on Sharon's probity last week - following the report (since discredited) that the police had proof of a bribe Sharon accepted from his friend Martin Schlaff - causing the prime minister distress that might have brought on the stroke that evening. The fact that the story, which has no real proof, got onto the front page of the country's most popular newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, and subsequently the morning radio shows, will only embolden the team to start focusing its fire higher up, straight at Netanyahu. anshel@ejemm.com
Previous blog entries: Back to politics as usual January 8, 2006 Over-egging the Kadima pudding January 4, 2006 Re-legitimizing the Likud January 4, 2006 Labor's freefall December 28, 2006 Rabbis and politicians December 22, 2005 Rabbis and politicians December 22, 2005 Feiglin won't disturb December 21, 2005 The Sunday morning spin December 18, 2005 Duelling with Sharon's double December 15, 2005 Changing camps December 13, 2005 In the wake of Hurricane Arik December 10, 2005 In a logjam December 8, 2005 Hanegbi - asset or liability? December 7, 2005 The Mofaz Anomaly December 5, 2005 Meretz grounds Beilin December 4, 2005 Old Cato goes home December 3, 2005 Netanyahu Concedes Defeat November 31, 2005 Star signings November 30, 2005 Hell hath no fury November 29, 2005 Electoral reform November 27, 2005 Back at the Labor headquarters November 25, 2005 In the line of fire November 24, 2005 Behind the scenes November 22, 2005 State of Euphoria November 22, 2005 On his terms November 21, 2005 The Sharon party November 21, 2005
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