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For me it was a moment of shocking revelation.
I was listening to one of the daily speeches of our Prime Minister. He said: "We are a wonderful people!" He said: We have already won this war, it is the greatest victory in the history of our state. He said: We have changed the face of the Middle East. And more to that effect.
Well, I told myself, that's Olmert.
I have known him since he was 20-something. At that time, I was a member of the Knesset, and Olmert was the book-carrier (literally) of another member. Since then I have followed his career. He has never been anything but a party functionary, a small-time politician special[ty] in manipulations, a run-of-the-mill demagogue. On the way [he] changed parties several times and served as a mayor with a grade of D minus, until he climbed on the bandwagon of Ariel Sharon. More or less by accident he was given the empty title of "Deputy Prime Minister", and when Sharon suffered his stroke, something happened that took Olmert too by surprise: he became Prime Minister.
So, I told myself, this is just another cynical speech. But suddenly a ghastly thought struck me: No, the man believes what he is saying!
Hard as it is to imagine, it seems that Olmert really believes that this is a successful war. That he is winning. That he has radically changed Israel's situation. That he is building a New Middle East. That he is a historic leader, far superior to Ariel Sharon (who, after all, was beaten in Lebanon and who allowed Hizbullah to build up its arsenal of rockets). That the longer he is allowed to go on with the war, the more his stature in history will grow.
Of all the dangers facing Israel now, this is the most severe. Because this man is deciding, quite simply, the fate of millions: who will die, who will become a refugee, whose world will be shattered.
* * *
BUT OLMERT'S problem with megalomania is nothing compared to what has happened to Amir Peretz.
Exactly nine months ago, after his election as Labor Party chairman, Peretz made a speech in Tel-Aviv's Rabin Square in which he revealed his dream: that in the no-man's land between Israel and the Gaza Strip a football field will be built, and a match between the Israeli children of Sderot and the Palestinian children of nearby Bet-Hanoun will take place. An Israeli Martin Luther King.
Nine month's later, a monster has been born to us.
In the Knesset election campaign, Peretz appeared as a social revolutionary. He announced that he would change the face of Israeli society, set new national priorities, cut billions from the military budget and transfer them to education, welfare and measure to reduce the glaring gap between rich and poor. As a veteran peace-lover, he would, of course, achieve peace with the Palestinians and the entire Arab world.
This won him the votes of many citizens, including many who would normally never consider voting for the Labor Party.
What followed is history. He seduced himself, when Olmert offered him the Ministry of Defense. That was still Olmert the cynic. He knew, as we all did, that Peretz was walking into a trap, that as a rank civilian without serious military experience he would be easy prey for the generals. But Peretz did not shrink back. The supreme aim of his life is to become Prime Minister, and in order to become a credible candidate he believed that he must present himself as a security expert.