Save Israel's political center

The failure of Olmert and Peretz to resign increases the likelihood that Israel's next government will be an extremist one.

olmert cabinet 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
olmert cabinet 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Sooner or later, early elections will be called, and it is a fair certainty that Kadima will place at its head a leader who is currently more popular - though not necessarily more capable - than Ehud Olmert. The case against Olmert remaining as prime minister is too strong for him to be able to survive politically. However, the politicians, press and public alike are preoccupied with trivialities, and so the bigger picture is being lost sight of. The real question is: What will the new post-election government look like? Unhappily, Israel's immediate future is filled with peril, including the next war with Iran's proxies in both south and north. The situation is even more serious than that. It will not be long before an Iranian leader who espouses Nazi ideology and openly declares his desire to wipe Israel off the map gets his hands on nuclear weapons. In a nutshell, we might say that we have returned to the threats that faced us in 1948, but without the leadership of 1948. Yet there is no reason to panic at this forecast because a solution is available. Israel's strategic array must be strengthened with anti-missile missiles, and by having Israel join a defense alliance with the United States. BOTH OF these solutions require a government that is both strong and moderate. It must be a government prepared, on the one hand, to stand up for Israel's security and devote large resources to its active and passive defense against missile and rocket attacks; but also one that can, on the other hand, make the necessary concessions, territorial as well as those related to the IDF's freedom of movement, that will be demanded by any American administration in return for a defense alliance. In other words, we need a government that would make Israel strong enough - as far as our deterrent capability is concerned - to be willing to make territorial and tactical concessions to assure our existential interests. Is such a government possible in Israel? According to a recent public opinion survey (Ma'ariv, May 2) carried out after the Winograd interim report was made public, the Likud has become the most popular party, with a projected 30-37 Knesset seats. In whatever constellation, Binyamin Netanyahu is greatly preferred to any of the other candidates, including Tzipi Livni and Shimon Peres (32.1 percent for Netanyahu compared to less than 15 percent for the other two). In any possible scenario, Netanyahu will be the next prime minister. WHILE IT is possible that this survey reflects an extreme but transient public mood prevailing immediately after the publication of the Winograd Report, it is no less likely that the Likud and rightist parties could grow even stronger in the wake of continued Kassam rockets on Sderot and other Negev communities and the insane verbal attacks on Israel coming from the Islamofascists. This is the great fear - that the crisis of the Second Lebanon War will produce an extreme nationalist-religious-ultra-Orthodox government in its wake. That would be a nightmare; a coalition of Likud-Gaydamak-Yisrael Beitenu-the haredi parties plus the National Union and National Religious Party. Such a government would deepen Israel's isolation and be an economic catastrophe (because of the demands of the partners to the government coalition). This would probably not be Netanyahu's first choice for a coalition either, but he may find that he has no choice, that the weakening of Kadima and Labor may force him to form this kind of government. When that happens, we will hear a terrible outcry from those who are today responsible for the decline of the political center. WHAT CAN be done? The responsibility to prevent such a coalition from being formed lies with the politicians, as well as with those who view themselves as shapers of public-opinion. As for the politicians, the prime minister and defense minister have a duty to resign, even if they are convinced they have been wronged by the justice system, and even if the Winograd Committee erred in not emphasizing that all the other alternatives facing the government - not responding, or sending the reserves into a major ground incursion in Lebanon - were bad for Israel too and would likely have warranted harsh conclusions from other commissions of inquiry. They must resign in order to bolster the moderate forces in Israeli society, to bolster the Labor and Kadima parties, and to prevent the formation of an extreme rightist-ultra-Orthodox coalition. The public-opinion shapers must shake off their enthrallment with the daily news reports and take a good look at the real dangers facing Israel from both within and without. They have the obligation to say not only what they oppose, but also what they support. The Knesset adopted the concept of "constructive non-confidence." Basic Law: The Government includes the principle that a vote of no confidence in the government must be accompanied by a positive proposal for an alternative candidate for prime minister. The healthy concept that lies behind this law obligates us all. The writer, former president of the Interdisciplinary Center - Herzliya, has been minister of education and a member of the Knesset.