Ehud Olmert to 'Post': Women need to take on leadership roles in Israel

A party that wants to change the nature of public discourse and present an attractive, different, hopeful and chance-creating alternative must change its composition.

WOMEN MKS – it’s past time for them to take on leadership roles. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
WOMEN MKS – it’s past time for them to take on leadership roles.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
The political awakening in recent days, in the face of what appears to be a fourth round of elections in two years, expected to take place in the coming months, gives rise to various ideas about the composition of the forces expected to arise. The impression I get is that the prominent players in the opposition have learned nothing from their failure to form a stable and strong political force that will lead to the downfall of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his gang.
The past year has proven to everyone who needed that the public system in the country needs a new kind of discourse. The naive, perhaps somewhat childish, expectations of Blue and White that the coronavirus justified an agreement with Netanyahu – as an expression of the sense of urgency that necessitates unconventional steps – collapsed.
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi truly believed that Netanyahu was worried about the fate of the country and he would abide by the agreement he signed. Since a government had to be formed, Gantz and Ashkenazi worked to formulate a responsible pattern of action to combat what seemed at the time the most immediate and serious threat to the stability of life in the country. I was convinced that Gantz and Ashkenazi were wrong. They were wrong and thought that what was bothering them was the same thing that was bothering Netanyahu.
However, Netanyahu was and still is only concerned with one thing – himself. The health situation of the residents of Israel, the economic downturn, unemployment and the collapse of businesses – all of these are not the focus of the prime minister’s attention. I am saying serious things. During the decades I have been active in Israel’s public life center, I have argued with prime ministers and sometimes sharply criticized them. I never had any doubt that at the center of their agenda there was no personal interest. No party interest was superior to what they believed was the real interest of the State of Israel. Most of them made mistakes – mistakes that occasionally caused great tragedy to many in the country. I am no different from my predecessors. I was wrong too. I have never tried to evade responsibility for my mistakes, and like the prime ministers before me I hoped the overall picture would present a balance that alongside the mistakes would also mention the achievements and successes.
But, the bottom line has always been concern for what is right for the state, its security and the health of its residents.
Conducting a political struggle against a dishonest person is a difficult task. Netanyahu is an indecent person. When I said this in public there were quite a few who were angry with me and condemned the blatant style I used. Today, few don’t recognize that Netanyahu is a crook, a pretender, a deceiver, unscrupulous and without any obligation to the commitments he made to tell the truth, to basic fairness to his opponents and even to his partners and supporters.
There is no act of fraud that Netanyahu misses in the unbridled effort he makes to save himself from the avalanche that threatens to crush him and with him his family.
These are serious accusations, but there is no way to avoid saying them in the most explicit and focused words. The pretense of political correctness, playful politeness and rolling eyes belong to a political culture that Netanyahu crushed with his own hands.
The latest victims of the attempt to maintain political correctness are Gantz and Ashkenazi. Those who went under the stretcher, as they put it, to take part in the rescue operation of the State of Israel in the face of the terrible epidemic that was spreading in it discovered that their political body was lying on the stretcher and they were also carrying it on their backs. They were invited to the celebration, until they discovered that the celebration was the funeral and they were the victims.
Now that they have reached this recognition, they are greater than Netanyahu’s disgrace. Some pundits on the radio and television remarked to me with feigned piety that it is not acceptable to say about the prime minister, live, that he is a crook. This hypocrisy is an outgrowth of the laxity that gripped many of the channel executives who let Netanyahu’s gang be dominant in the studios.
We arrived at the line six months late with no way to avoid crossing it. There is no longer any chance that the current government will continue to serve. If Gantz and Ashkenazi make another U-turn, they will lose the rest of their personal dignity which their past still gives them.
The question is: what are we doing now so that in a few more months we will be exempt from Netanyahu, his wife and son?
THERE IS no escape from a close election. It may not be in March, because it is a date that is too close and it may also not be particularly comfortable for Netanyahu’s needs and fears. He hopes the coronavirus vaccine will help him overcome the damage he has caused and will put him back in the position of a hero who alone can overcome all difficulties and the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is no escape from an election, and the question that is permeating the consciousness of many in the public is who is an alternative. The current party system does not know how to create a serious composition of forces and put at its head a candidate who can gain sufficient support to replace Netanyahu.
Telem chairman Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon was quick to offer an alternative led by him. Ya’alon’s remarks about his plan are embarrassing. Ya’alon did not appear to be a candidate who could pass the electoral threshold and was forced to agree to join Gantz’s Israel Resilience Party and opposition leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, and as a bonus took care to include Derech Eretz MKs Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser in their combined list. It was Hendel and Hauser who made a decisive contribution to destroying the chances to bring about a turning point in the wake of the last Knesset election.
Now, Ya’alon believes that with former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot he will succeed in creating a turning point. Everything that has been said about Eisenkot – his intelligence, his honesty, the cleanliness of his mind and the cleanliness of his hands – is true. But what can be done, as even with Eisenkot the chance of causing a turning point is very low. At times, it seems to IDF generals that the general’s baton is a key to the statesman’s wisdom. Experience proves that this is not the case.
Gone are the days when a chief of staff could have caused a political earthquake, if they ever existed.
What then?
I BELIEVE it is time to revolutionize the political system in Israel through a dramatic change in the gender composition of our leadership. Too few women serve as ministers in the government, too few female MKs represent us. In our economic, business, academic-research and security systems there are not enough women in crucial positions. There are not enough women, even though they have the ability, talent and vision and could lead such systems. These women are there. We need to clear the way for them.
Where there are women there is usually a higher level of achievement, more responsible management, less ridiculous dramatization and fewer ego wars. An example of this is the success of the prime ministers of New Zealand, Finland and several other countries in conducting the campaign against the coronavirus. The success of female mayors in Israel in this matter is also very impressive.
A party that wants to change the nature of public discourse and present an attractive, different, hopeful and chance-creating alternative must change its composition. It must go from a party of ego-rich generals to a party that smart, talented and energetic women lead.
The key to changing the political system in the country starts here.
There is still time to bring about this change. If it happens, there will be a political revolution.