Does this look like a happy man to you?
I grabbed this image off of YNET, it's Olmert on Channel2. In fact, for the last 36 hours now every single image of Olmert I have seen has pretty much looked like this. And seen many images I have, on every newspaper and TV channels.
I've been frowning too, but Olmert is struggling for survival in my opinion.
He's not a bad or ill intentioned man by any measure, his intentions one must believe have been good and the loss of IDF troopers will have brought him genuine distress. But there's no denying the fact that these frowns also reflect some hard realities that are hitting the Prime Minister of Israel today:
- He's facing a massive incursion into Gaza that will eat at his only support base, Peretz' labor party faithful and the center left.
He's lost two troops KIA, a third is MIA. It might not seem like much to a casual observer, but in a small country like Israel where everyone knows someone and the majority of people's kids are serving, the loss of even a single soldier hits the nation like a ton of bricks. This is a country that goes to legendary lengths to retrieve troops, and historically brings massive & totally disproportionate force to bear at any loss of life to her enemies. It is in fact a matter of pride in Israel, pride that no PM even Sharon could skirt and survive.
- The news is replete with articles stating the plain reality that the disengagement plan is going nowhere fast. 70% disapproval rates in Israel, cool receptions in every major western power he has recently visited. He can't muster enough votes in the Knesset, even Kadima party ministers have anonymously stated there are no votes within the party.
Opposition finding their sea legs
During the crisis, the opposition in Israel is pulling no punches. Bibi has called the government a stuttering wreck. Avigdor Lieberman, the rising power in opposition himself has stated he has no confidence in the government, and openly called for the resignation of Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
In the toughest spot on earth where respect is earned by sheer force alone and deterrence is a matter of survival, Olmert has casually been utterly passive in the face of thousands of terrorist rockets striking the south of Israel. His attempt at playing the international field and going the PR friendly multilateral route a la Europe, has not won over many hearts in Israel. On the contrary, the Kadima / Labor coalition has less than 30% support and polls show massive disenfranchisement in the Israeli public.
- His Election tallies came in a full 15 mandates short of their polling highs, stunning everyone in his party and the nation across the board.
His coalition partner Amir Peretz is openly seen as the weakest most ineffective DM in recent memory. The IDF, IAF, are in full gripe mode to the media of all places of their dissatisfaction with the government's policies in regards to security. Highly irregular activity in Israel, a nation where every citizen can only get some shut eye because he or she believes the country is being protected at all times with the utmost vigilance.
- Hamas, Israel's sworn enemy has been elected to represent the Palestinians in a terrorist government while amassing weapons of higher range and lethality, ramping up terrorist infrastructure, and bringing the Netanyahu warnings of Hamastan to a very real reality, while Israel has played international games and watched the rockets slam home. One of Israel's cities has been under siege, its citizens contemplating hunger strikes out of sheer frustration.
Time is not being kind to the coalition thus far
At the formation of the government a few short months ago his coalition predicted 4 years of government, pundits and political junkies myself included predicted an election sometime in calendar 2007.. But at the rate things have been deteriorating for Olmert, he may face a no confidence tumbler just as soon as his opposition can get themselves organized. If a crisis such as this one ends badly, maybe even sooner.
Olmert's advisers have told him to take a page of the Bulldog's book, and ram it all through Sharon style. But this government is a pale shadow of Ariel Sharon, and Olmert is NOT the grandfather of Israel. Olmert did not smash villages in Jordan, Olmert did not stand triumphantly on the canals of the Suez in '73, Olmert did not have the Sheik killed, and Olmert has not ended any intifadas.
Inner circle needs a serious juggle
Olmert's inner circle of advisers have been failing with aplomb. He needs a new plan and so far his advisers have been Sun Tzu less. A shakeup of some sort in his inner core, failing that an untying of the hands of his military and the hope they can deliver for him. If not, the chances of him being able to restore the confidence of the Israeli public in his government are seemingly slim.
In Israel, you are only as strong as the country's perceived deterrence. If the deterrence is lost and it currently is ebbing ever low, the government is never far behind. Add on the fact that these policies of sheer weakness are a whole new hat for Mr. Olmert, a right winger his whole life but recently doing a one eighty, and his own creeping doubt will tell him he is in serious trouble.
It all means in my opinion one thing, Israel is going to Gaza no matter what. It's do or die for PM Olmert and he knows it.