Now This Here, Mr. Obama, Is...

Opinion

By Uri Dromi

Published July 17, 2008, issue of July 25, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

By the time Barack Obama wraps up this week’s whirlwind tour of Israel, he will undoubtedly have heard all sorts of wise things from all sorts of wise men (and women). As is well known, we have no shortage of them here.

But try as he may, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States may find it a bit difficult to figure out just who is in charge here, or more to the point, who he’ll be dealing with if he moves into the White House next January.

And so, as a guy who’s spent his share of time among the movers and shakers in Jerusalem, I’d like to offer our distinguished visitor a pointer or two about Israel’s who’s who.

First, be nice to Ehud Olmert. He just might be around in a couple of months. (Who would’ve thought he’d still be around today?) But under no circumstances should Obama give him any kind of envelope, even if all that’s in it is a birthday card. We’re kind of sensitive about such packages right about now.

As for those who’ve smelled blood and are now circling around Olmert, waiting to pounce — the other leaders of his own Kadima party — keep an eye out on Shaul Mofaz. He used to be the military’s chief of staff, which in Israel means he’s got as good a chance as any at running the country, and even if he doesn’t make it to the top, the transportation minister still talks the war talk as good as any.

Then there’s the other Kadima leader who’s turned on Olmert, Tzipi Livni. True, the foreign minister is the most popular politician in Israel, mostly because she’s perceived as being squeaky clean, an honest politician (forgive the oxymoron) in a country fed up with corruption scandals. But the American president-in-waiting ought to think twice before venturing out alone with her onto the balcony of whichever high-rise hotel he’ll be staying at; she is, after all, a former Mossad agent.

When it comes to Benjamin Netanyahu, who would most likely become prime minister if elections were held today, it’s actually quite simple. Obama won’t have to do or say a thing; Bibi will do all the talking.

The same goes for Ehud Barak. The leader of the Labor Party will treat his senatorial visitor to long lectures, although his English is unfortunately not quite as good as the silver-tongued Bibi’s. And he has a tendency to be obscure, especially when he starts off by saying, “Let me make it crystal clear.”

Now as far as how these charming individuals actually make it to the top office in the land, let alone what they do once they are there, Obama ought not be surprised if all the machinations don’t seem to make any sense.

Let’s say that, as expected, Livni wins the Kadima primary in September. She’ll probably keep her party in a national unity government with Barak’s Labor, in order to avoid a general election that Netanyahu stands a pretty good chance of winning. Once they’ve teamed up they’ll then do everything they can to weaken each other; after all, another election could always be right around the corner. But so long as they need to box out Bibi, they’ll stick it out.

If, on the other hand, general elections are indeed called, things will be, well, actually, much the same. Livni, Barak, Bibi and everyone else will go after each other like savages. Then, the minute the elections are over, they’ll sit down and form a coalition government with each other. And, of course, continue to undermine each other.

They’re quite good at it, in fact. Just this past week, Labor supported a no-confidence vote against the governing coalition — which, along with Kadima, it leads. Did Olmert fire them for sabotaging the coalition? Of course not; he’s too weak now, and they know it.

Obama, if he wins the presidency, might find the recently deposed Republican majority resistant to all that change you can believe in. For the next Israeli prime minister, that’s an easy day at the office. More often than not, the head of the Israeli government can hardly govern at all. He spends 99% of the time trying to survive, and the remaining 1% being investigated by the police.

Just a few days in Israel, I imagine, are hardly enough for Obama to make sense of the circus that passes for politics here. Come to think of it, he could spend a whole lot more time here and still not quite figure it all out.

Better, I’d think, that he spend his time on the campaign trail trying to unravel this mystery: If Israeli politics is such a mess, then how is it that the Israeli economy is booming, Israeli culture is thriving and the people here are, generally speaking, pretty damn happy.

Uri Dromi was chief spokesman for the Israeli government under Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.