One, two, Bibi’s coming for you.
Three, four, better lock your door.
Five, six, grab your poll prognoses.
Seven, eight, gonna stay up late,
Nine, ten, never sleep again.
Movie buffs will readily recognize in the above the eerie rhymes chanted by terrorized kids in several Nightmare on Elm Street flicks. Of course instead of Bibi (Netanyahu), the original spoke of Freddy (Krueger). Rather than advised to heed cautioning pollsters, the horrified denizens of Elm Street were urged to ward off evil with crucifixes. Other than such superficial differences, however, the substance is identical.
Freddy was the quintessential monster, the personification of nightmares. He was the ultimate latter-day bogeyman, unrivaled in inspiring dread and loathing. But that’s no longer the case.
Little Israel’s omnipresent and omniscient opinion-molders have outdone Freddy’s creators and now alarm their compatriots with a much more potent and malevolent specter – Bibi. In folk tradition, the hyped menace attributed to villainous bogey-apparitions becomes a handy device to incite irrational panic. Lack of compliance and conformity to the will of the entrenched elites will unleash Bibi upon the naughty upstarts.
Why Bibi should stimulate so much abhorrence and trigger such trepidation needn’t be explained. If the threat that disobedience will set Bibi loose is repeated often enough, it becomes axiomatic. One merely has to hear self-important radio talking head Yaron Dekel interview politicos and insert in question after question the frightening prospect of Bibi’s ascendance to power. Were elections advanced, the appalling consequence – heaven forfend – could be Olmert’s replacement by Bibi.
Dekel is merely one predictable news purveyor among numerous hackneyed representatives of conventional wisdom. These disseminators of prosaic truisms don’t dispute that Olmert is a catastrophic failure, but – to their biased minds – no catastrophe compares to a Bibi electoral triumph. The conclusion – sometimes exclaimed outright and frequently suggested subliminally in the subtext – is that all means are justified to avert the unspeakable outcome of early elections.
SO IT doesn’t really matter if Winograd Commission member Yehezkel Dror intended to unequivocally broadcast the message that “anything is better than Bibi” or if he just hinted at a preconceived perception that subconsciously guided Olmert’s handpicked committee. It doesn’t matter if his words were a clarion call to thwart Bibi or just a Freudian slip. What matters is that a panel member, entrusted with delivering the unvarnished truth, could ask his interviewer: “What do you prefer – a government by Olmert and Barak or new elections that would bring Netanyahu to power?”
No verbal acrobatics can wipe away the abiding impression that Bibi is the bogeyman with whom one scares the masses.
The rest is as irrelevant as the entire committee had been. It significantly came in lieu of a state judicial inquiry where the members aren’t appointed by the principal object of their investigation and where personal verdicts are possible. Olmert craftily substituted a toothless paper tiger of his own making for a genuine probe that would have sent him home disgraced. Moreover, he invested more care in selecting his inquisitors than he did in sending soldiers to die. He knew that Dror – and not only he – was a priori opposed to personal recommendations against whoever may be found liable. That was Dror’s entry ticket.
When this anyway controversial committee seemed less disciplined in its interim report than Olmert expected, he brazenly ignored its criticism. Before it managed to mumble anything the second time around, he openly announced that he’d take no notice and cling to office.
In other words, the 17 months the committee wasted formulating what was obvious to lesser sophisticates were much ado about nothing. Olmert behaves accordingly and his Knesset sidekicks – as protective of their jeopardized careers as their flunky chief is of his – are resolved to scrape up ad hoc parliamentary majorities to sustain their hegemony in the hallowed name of the democratic process.
Israel’s browbeaten and intimidated citizenry – taught to assiduously accept any deception parading in democratic guise and taught to fear the result of a democratic decision (if it boosts Bibi) – has lost trust in its own instincts. The electorate didn’t need Olmert’s shrewdly selected quasi-jury of seemingly venerable elders. But Olmert calculatingly imposed a team of supposed wise counsels to squander their valuable time and ours, thereby guaranteeing himself an invaluable respite.
Olmert figured that, hot on the heels of his unprecedented fiasco, most Israelis – whether left-wing or right-wing – knew who messed up and who should disappear from the public arena.
A timeout made it possible for Olmert to dim the nation’s initial disgust with him and indoctrinate the plebeians with Bibi-phobia. For these purposes, the Winograd five – whether principled or prejudiced – served Olmert’s purposes supremely. They delayed an indispensable political comeuppance. They were instrumental – whether deliberately or unintentionally – in propping up Israel’s most unworthy premier.
OLMERT bragged openly that he plans to use his Second Lebanon War to facilitate his second disengagement (a.k.a. convergence). The bon ton consensus of Israel’s upper crust – whether manifested within the Winograd Committee or just primarily in its milieu – is that Olmert must be shielded to enable him to uproot hundreds of thousands of vilified settlers.
It mustn’t be admitted that the Philadelphi corridor disaster and Gazan rocket barrages are directly linked to the first disengagement. Similarly it’s undesirable to emphasize the folly of Barak’s unilateral retreat from Lebanon as the original sin. Cover-ups are preferable to exposing endorsed territorial surrenders (to still implacable enemies) as a manipulative and dangerous misrepresentation of peace. Olmert is spared precisely because he advocates repeating the same travesties, only on a gargantuan scale.
The Winograd Committee’s fastidious undertaking on behalf of its client – whether expedient or unsuspecting – left Olmert with the cynical last laugh. The ostensibly impartial Dror signals – whether didactically or carelessly – that it’s highly undesirable in a democracy to respect the people’s choice if that choice isn’t to the establishment’s liking.
And to postpone and/or subvert a democratic choice in democracy’s name, it’s OK to demonize a political opponent. So beware everybody: “One, two, Bibi’s coming for you!”