“No clever arrangement of bad eggs ever made a good omelet”(CS Lewis).
This adage best sums up one possible outcome for Israel following the announcement of Ehud Olmert’s intended resignation as Israel’s Prime Minister at some unspecified date after his successor as head of the political party - Kadima - is named on September 17.
Mr Olmert’s uncertain resignation date could well be resolved with greater clarity if the raft of inquiries currently investigating his past conduct result in his indictment and forced stand down much earlier than he expects.
What appears to be planned following his replacement as Kadima’s leader is merely a change in the arrangement of the same faces that make up the present Government.
Israelis will thus be denied an early election that the current parlous situation demands be held in Israel’s national interest to determine who should next make the crucial decisions needed to meet the rapidly developing - and deteriorating - circumstances that threaten their very lives.
Kadima only has 29 seats in a Parliament of 120 members. It has managed to hold on to power by clobbering together a coalition of various other parties. This has allowed Kadima to conduct Israel’s foreign policy with disastrous results - leaving its coalition partners to claim a piece of the domestic action to advance their own narrow based and vested interests whilst threatening to quit the coalition if their demands are not met.
Fresh elections should have been called in the wake of the Olmert Government’s failure to successfully prosecute the war against Hezbollah in 2006 and to prevent the evacuation of an estimated one million Israelis from the north of Israel to the south to escape the thousands of shells and rockets indiscriminately rained down on their homes and businesses from Lebanon during that war.
Many other events since then have justified the need for the Government to seek the nation’s vote of confidence - the failure to halt thousands of rockets being fired into Israel from Gaza without any effective Israeli response, the failure to halt Hamas from rearming and smuggling weapons into Gaza through Egypt and the intrusion of Iran and Syria into the political equation and the policies needed to deal with each of these existential challenges.
The failure of the Olmert Government to achieve any breakthrough in negotiations on President Bush’s Road Map - despite optimistic and glowing reports of progress by Mr Olmert - requires the Israeli electorate to be given the opportunity to choose which future direction Israel should now take in attempting to resolve the competing territorial claims it has with its Arab neighbours.
Mr Olmert’s turn about on the progress of the Road Map from unbridled optimism in Paris just two weeks ago to subdued reality in Jerusalem this week illustrates the urgent need for there to be more than a changing of the deck chairs on the sinking ship.
In seeking to explain away the last two years of failed negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Mr Olmert gave the electorate the following explanation when announcing his resignation:
“As prime minister, I bear ultimate responsibility for every decision. There are many excellent people in the country, and together with them I have championed far-reaching, daring and complex processes… Most of them are unknown to the majority of the public, but they are well- known to those who were part of the decision-making and operational process.”
The Prime Minister has no clothes - his far reaching, daring and complex processes have gone nowhere.
Keeping the public completely in the dark as to what they were and why they failed is not the way to gain public confidence nor to expect the voters to let this pathetic situation continue until possibly 2010 when the next election would normally be held.
The portents for fresh elections are however not good at the present time.
Already the two main candidates vying for leadership of Kadima - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz - have both called for a national unity Government to be formed.
Ms Livni is reported by the Jerusalem Post on 31 July as saying :
“We must leave the small considerations aside and create unity, both inwardly and outwardly,” adding that the main goal of the coalition members would be to “restore the public’s faith in Israeli politics.”
Her recipe for restoring that faith by forming a Government of national unity and not submitting herself and her colleagues for re-election is only a cynical exercise in promoting her own party’s political hold on power and will certainly result in a further erosion of the public’s faith in its politicians.
She attempted to justify her call for a national unity Government by asserting:
“I believe that the internal divisions we have become accustomed to and the idea that different parties have such extremely different ideologies and agendas is a thing of the past and is no longer the case. There is a common agenda that every party can put forward on political issues and also on dealing with the threats we face.”
This makes strange reading considering she and her Kadima colleagues quit the Likud party to form Kadima because the policies adopted by Likud were not - and still are not - to their liking.
Ms Livni’s call has already been rejected by Likud leader Mr. Netanyahu who has declared:
“Kadima is a party of failures,… We must let the public choose. Particularly at such a critical juncture we need to let the people decide who will lead them.”
A third contender for Mr Olmert’s position - Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit - has also called for early elections but his bid for leadership of Kadima presently has little support.
There is still time for Kadima to rethink its position, put the people of Israel before its own interests, accept the urgent necessity of dissolving Parliament and hold early elections.
Mr Olmert’s resignation offers the opportunity for fresh elections - and should be endorsed by all political parties as soon as possible.
Opportunities - like eggs - come one at a time. Missing this one will surely leave egg on the politicians’ faces and create a very dangerous strategic and negotiating void for Israel when it is least needed.