A malaise that extends far beyond Ehud Olmert

Our leaders can't instill confidence, evoke enthusiasm, clean out our political system, or lead.

Olmert im going home  (photo credit: AP)
Olmert im going home
(photo credit: AP)
We tend to look at the immediate fallout from Prime Minister Olmert's statement on Wednesday evening: Who will win the Kadima primaries? Will she or he be able to patch together a working coalition before the Knesset reconvenes in October? The media has focused on the aftermath, on the prospect of each of the candidates, on the likelihood of an election before the end of the year. The real story behind the demise of Ehud Olmert is, however, very different. The real story is the utter disgust felt by a wide section of the population about everything to do with politics and politicians, which reached a climax with the daily outpouring in the media of wrongdoing by our prime minister. Talk to our youngsters and you will hear that disgust in the most extreme terms. They, in particular, are sick and tired with the government, with the Knesset, with the political parties - with the double-dealing and the double talk, with the promises that are not kept, and with the corruption. We will see the result of this attitude in the next election - in the low turnout, in the number of votes for esoteric protest parties. Why vote for a party whose leaders are held in contempt, or for a party that has no real identity? Take the Labor Party, for instance. For years Labor stood for principles that were clear and understandable; you agreed with those principles or opposed them. But now? What does Labor stand for? Is it a pro-peace party? Is it a party with social goals? Its leader, Ehud Barak, is vying for the votes of the Right. His policies as minister of defense are more right wing than those of any other minister in the government. His ministers dare not challenge him for fear of becoming unglued from their ministerial chairs. Or take Kadima. It came to power with a program of disengagement from Judea and Samaria. That program is dead. The prime minister replaced it with a clear objective of reaching a negotiated two-state solution. One of the two contenders for his job will do everything she can to implement that policy; the other contender will work against it. So what is the true policy of Kadima? To work for peace or to work for the status quo? With such a situation, it is not surprising that the Likud is in the lead. Its opponents are in disarray. The large number of Israelis who had, in the past, gone to the polls knowing what they wanted, and which parties would work to deliver what they wanted, are now political orphans. As for the Likud, it had, in the past, proved to be more corrupt than any other party. Its central committee and other institutions became synonymous with corrupt practices. The misdemeanors of the Kadima ministers under investigation were all carried out during their Likud days, and this is true particularly of the prime minister. So will the youth vote Likud, or will they vote with their feet? THE PROBLEM lies not only with corrupt politicians but also with a system that calls for corrupt practices. Politicians need a lot of money to win primaries; they need even more to win elections. That money - a great amount of it - comes in envelopes from abroad.Less than a week after the dramatic exposure of the Talansky envelopes I met a good friend of mine in Europe, a wealthy businessman, who told me that he had just been approached by one of the Kadima contenders. "He asked for a financial contribution, the larger the better," my friend told me. Wealthy Jews in the US are openly touting this or that prime ministerial candidate. Sheldon Adelson, who has amassed some $26 billion from his casinos and is the richest Jew in the world, openly supports Bibi Netanyahu. Adelson has poured so much money into his free daily newspaper, Yisrael Hayom, that it has become the second largest journal in the country, overtaking Ma'ariv, and that paper's raison d'etre is not to make money - it is a freesheet - but to install Bibi as prime minister. What we need is a prime minister who has integrity, who speaks her or his mind, and who is not afraid to tackle the malaise that has overtaken our political system - a malaise that supersedes all other threats. We have defense experts galore, economists, lawyers - you name them. But we don't have leaders who can instill confidence, who can evoke enthusiasm, who can clean out our political system, and above all, who can lead. That is a breed so rare in our country as to have become an endangered species. Unless we find such a leader, we will continue our downhill spiral. And politics and politicians will become ever dirtier words, shunned by all the decent people in our country.