Sunday, 6 July 2008

Olmert - Fit to lead?

PressTV's Middle East Today takes another look at the leadership of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and asked the question: Is he fit to lead?

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is well known as a political survivor. But despite winning yet another reprieve after making a deal with his most bitter rival, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Olmert is literally hanging onto power by his fingertips.

Currently embroiled in a bribery scandal that could see him indicted on criminal charges, he is also the target of internal palace intrigues within his own coalition government.

With his approval ratings in single digits, the embattled Prime Minister has a lot to occupy his mind – so how distracted is he with his own survival – and how does that impair his judgment in his primary function – that of running the country.

Anyone watching this program is well aware that office intrigues around the water cooler are a distraction and diminish productivity. But imagine the impact when impaired concentration can have life and death consequences, rather than just ordering one too many boxes of copy paper.

Israel is currently embroiled in a simmering war of words with Iran, with Israeli politicians openly making threats to launch pre-emptive attacks to neutralize Tehran’s nuclear energy program.

There are the first tentative steps to engage Syria in peace negotiations – whether this is more for Israel’s immediate security needs or simply to isolate Damascus from Tehran is another question.

There are the prisoner swap arrangements with Hezbollah, expected to take place within two weeks. Hezbollah says the swap will include two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Olmert says he believes the soldiers are dead. If true, what will be the consequences?

If that wasn’t, there is the shaky ceasefire with Gaza – and the bulldozer attack in Jerusalem, that left four dead.

There is evidence to suggest that the man was acting alone. He did, however, come from the same village as the gunman who shot dead eight seminary students in Jerusalem al-Quds in March.

The Israeli government had just ordered the house of the gunman to be demolished, a continuation of Israel’s practice of collective punishment.

Olmert has already angrily expressed his desire that the home of the Palestinian who drove the bulldozer should also be destroyed.

Analysts believe news of the house demolition and the bulldozer attack are no coincidence.

So given the circumstances, is Olmert’s knee-jerk reaction the one of a rational man, in complete control of his faculties.

Is Olmert making strategic decisions that affect not only Israel but the entire Middle East after careful consideration, or in the face of pressure from his enemies – does he simply feel compelled to he simply feels the need to give the impression of a functioning government?

Watch Middle East Today's "Olmert - fit to lead?" and join the debate.

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