A wake-up call to the Knesset

The prime minister is acting like a charlatan and changing his mind with a juggler's skill.

Olmert booze 224 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Olmert booze 224 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Appearing recently before the Meretz Party faction, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was asked by Yossi Beilin about his radically changed political views - so radical that he's now genuinely willing to divide Jerusalem. Not missing a beat, Olmert replied that his term as Jerusalem's mayor had reshaped his political outlook and made it clear to him that Israel could not keep Jerusalem united and indivisible. Nonetheless, Olmert's revamped views did not prevent him from joining the Likud's PR team ahead of the elections for the 14th Knesset. Nor did they restrain him from enthusiastically promoting that now-famous victory slogan: "Peres will divide Jerusalem." Olmert - the man who leveled the accusation over dividing Jerusalem; who swore loyalty to Jerusalem; who was Yitzhak Shamir's right-hand man and spared no effort to be considered Jerusalem's shield and protector - is now declaring, if allusively and equivocally, that a united Jerusalem means the end of the State of Israel, no less. OLMERT, THE prime minister of declarations, is addressing other issues, not only Jerusalem. Just before the 2008 budget was passed, he announced with his usual serenity that the government was targeting a 6% reduction in road accidents. This stands in gross contradiction to the priorities the government has actually implemented, such as the two billion shekels it has slashed from road and transport infrastructures. Some time ago, he warmed the hearts of Holocaust survivors by announcing the award of an allowance which - to date - has still not been paid to the survivors. Olmert took credit for an initiative to increase the budget for reinforcing homes in Sderot, when it was stepped-up pressure from the Knesset that made the difference. WHAT DOES his behavior imply? Has the prime minister truly changed his mind, or has he lost it altogether? Is he a man with an agenda, or a genuine amateur? The Oxford Dictionary defines "charlatan" as "a false pretender to knowledge or skill." Such behavior is found in baseless statements, in undertakings without budgetary backing, and in declarations made in the face of diametrically opposite deeds. It's not easy to write, but the prime minister is acting like a charlatan, fooling the nation, and changing his mind with a juggler's skill. The Israeli ship of state is sailing stormy seas, and desperately needs a safe harbor; but Olmert is not the captain who can steer it to shore, and certainly not safely. The Labor Party, which has tasked itself with ending Olmert's rule following the damaging conclusions of the Winograd report, has grown used to its role as an on-the-shelf party that's taken down and used occasionally. Time after time, Labor plays into Olmert's hands, completely abandoning its status as an alternative, and as a party in power. This is a wake-up call for Knesset members of all factions: In the past we failed to anticipate the shock-waves Israel would sustain under Olmert's "guiding hand"; we failed to grasp the severity of the problem. Let us avoid future bitter regrets. The writer is a former Speaker of the Knesset, and a Likud MK.