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Israel: Israelis call for Prime Minister Olmert to resign

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Israel, Governance, Politics

This article was co-written by David Bogner aka Treppenwitz

“So, two Israelis walk into a bar… “

Any way you look at it, that kind of opening line doesn’t portent well for a funny outcome to the joke.

You see, few people have a sense of humor about Israelis these days. Those who are sympathetic to (or happen to be) Israelis tend to be a tad sensitive… and those who are, um, critical of Israel/Israelis find little amusing about us whatsoever.

So when we (Yaeli and Treppenwitz) were approached a few weeks ago to step up and help present a fair and balanced biweekly snapshot of the Israeli blogosphere to the GV audience, we were a little daunted by the enormity, and perhaps futility, of the task.

The first challenge facing us was the staggering range of political and religious positions represented among Israeli blogs. The second challenge, not surprisingly, was the need to convince each GV reader that the words ‘Israel’ and ‘Israeli’ used in the context we would be presenting would almost certainly mean something substantially different from what he/she had in mind. My (Treppenwitz‘s) mother is fond of pointing out that “anyone driving slower than me is a moron and anyone driving faster is a maniac”. Well, here in Israel the same can be said about just about any aspect of our society. Anyone to the right of me is an extremist/zealot, and anyone to the left is a moonbat/anarchist.

Just to use the two of us as an example, we are both former Americans who now call Israel home. Yet we represent two entirely different ‘turfs’ in our adopted society. Yaeli is a lefty and Treppenwitz leans to the right. She’s secular and he's religious. She lives in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv and he enjoys the rural lifestyle of a ‘West Bank settlement’. Just to confuse the matter even more, Treppenwitz suspects Yaeli is a bit of a closet hawk on certain national defense issues, and she's cheerfully convinced Treppenwitz is a hopeless liberal when it comes to a wide swath of social justice topics.

Yet even these landmarks don’t really help pigeonhole either of us.

To paraphrase a joke that has made the email rounds lately: “The one thing we all have in common is that deep down, everyone secretly thinks they are above-average drivers.” In short, like most people on the planet, we Israelis secretly think we are centrists/balanced (not to mention on the side of the angels) in all matters political, social and/or religious.

But of course we can’t all be correct in that assumption.

This long-winded introduction is our way of asking that readers look at our bimonthly contributions to GV with as few preconceptions as humanly possible. We’ve both learned far more from reading bloggers with whom we disagree than by playing it safe and filling our blogrolls with members of our respective ‘amen choirs’.

As fate would have it, however, for our first contribution to GV we are covering an issue that seems to find an uncommon convergence of viewpoints across the left, right and center: The reaction to the just-released Winograd [1] report on the handling of the Second Lebanon War by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert [2] and Minister of Defense Amir Peretz [3], among others. Our first contribution is thus a joint introduction and collaboration although Treppenwitz and I (Yaeli) will also often trade off weeks with individual contributions. Now, on with the round-up.

Yeshiva [4] trained Rafi G succinctly summed up the thoughts that appear to be foremost in everyone's mind in his post titled Olmert Go Home [5]: “You are more worried about your own career than about Israel.” Yohay of Things and Stuff [6] elaborates on this line of thought by noting: “The public wanted a national inquiry committee with more authority. This committee’s interim report is enough for a resignation. Add 4 cases of corruption allegations, and less than 10% support. What more can we ask for?” and he challenges “Bring on the demonstrations!”

Over at One Jerusalem [7], predictions are made that the fall-out from the report may well bring on early elections and at the very least a shake-up in Olmert‘s cabinet. The necessity of the time and expense expended preparing the report is also questioned,

“But with all of this before us, is there really anything that hasn’t already been figured out by most of the Israeli public? After all, the reserve soldiers who were sent into battle without enough rations, ammunition – even water – do they need a long and very in depth report by a group to retired generals and legal experts to conclude what has already been thought out by nearly everyone with an IQ of at least 75?”

Bert, of Dutchblog Israel [8] appears to be one of those who had already thought things out and come to the same conclusion as he wrote just prior to the report's release to the public that he found an opinion piece [9] appearing in the Israeli national newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth [10] on the issue particularly enlightening. The article praises the actions of then Prime Minister Golda Meir [11]following the Yom Kippur War [12] when she resigned from her position despite having been cleared of any error or wrongdoing in the report that followed that war because she felt that she had lost the support of the citizens she represented. Meanwhile, Imshin of Not a Fish [13], faced “decisions decisions” as she tried to decide between watching the reading of the Winograd report or watching an old episode of the Gilmore Girls [14]. Escapism, it seems won out.

The clamour from the right side of the Israeli blogosphere is equally unified in its condemnation of the top political players. For instance, Carl of the Israel Matzav [15] (“Israel Situation”) blog writes about an unusually selfless act (for an Israeli politician) by a cabinet minster from the Labor party [16]Eitan Cabal [17] – who has resigned from the government in protest, saying that he hopes the Prime Minister [and one presumes other government ministers] follow his example. Over at My Obiter Dicta, Jeffrey Woolfe [18] goes beyond calling for the resignation of the three most visible targets of the report. He points out that the Israeli public is calling for the kind of clean sweep that only early elections can supply. One of the few bloggers who eschewed news sources and read the Winograd report for himself is Ben Chorin. His analysis of the report's high points can be found here [19] and far surpassed the gloss provided by the mainstream media.

Although one might assume that a settler writing under the nom de blog ‘Jameel at The Muqata [20]‘ would take humorous approach to the news, this blogger's take on the report is anything but ironic. It seems few people have been able to find their sense of humor about the failures revealed by the report. OK, so not everyone has lost their sense of humor. Aussie Dave of Israellycool [21] provides a collection of hilarious photos of the the disgraced PM, Defense Minister and former Chief of Military Staff along with perfect captions.

The next few days will be a crucial time of political manoeuvring within the Knesset [22] and political activism on the Israeli street. We suspect as these two important events unfold, the current unity of opinion calling for Olmert and Peretz to resign will be replaced by partisan politics as people begin looking at who they feel are the best choices to replace them… a topic about which there is precious little consensus.