Monday, May 01, 2006

The new Israeli government will probably be presented later this week or early next week. I do not think that Ehud Olmert did the best job possible, unless he does not seriously intend to make real changes, territorial and otherwise. If one of his main goals is to define and settle Israel's permanent borders - either within the framework of some sort of peace agreement with the Palestinians or unilaterally - he should not have looked beyond a pretty stable coalition of Kadimah, Labour, the Pensioners and Meretz ( together 60 MKs ) plus one or two of the ultra-orthodox parties. This is more or less the government that will come out of the coalition talks, but a lot of PR and other damage has been done in the last couple of weeks, not only to Olmert himself but also to the largest coalition partners. I never understood his apparent attempts to have Avigdor Lieberman join his coalition, unless of course he wanted to put pressure on the Labor party. What I really do not understand is the way in which Shas was included in the coalition. With all due respect to Eli Yishai and his party, their support for the containment plan could definitely be bought as long as the price was right. Olmert, though, paid a very high price for nothing: they are not commited to what was supposed to be one of the main pillars of the Kadimah-Labor coalition. When the Knesset will vote on further withdrawals from the territories Shas can basically vote as it sees fit, which could very well be a vote against the government's proposal. To me, that seems a bad deal for Olmert and for Kadimah, Labor and the Pensioners.
Anyway, yesterday evening I felt sorry for Mr Olmert. Maccabi Tel Aviv played CSKA Moscow in the final of the Final Four European basketball championship. It seemed that the whole country forgot that in order for Maccabi to return for the third consecutive time with that trophy the team still had to win one game. Even people who normally cannot tell the difference between a basketball and a hockey stick now were glued to the television screen, convinced that Pini Gershon and his men would do it once again. Unfortunately Olmert, who is known as a sports fan, was unable to do what Ariel Sharon did in 2004 and 2005: congratulate Maccabi's coach with the victory by phone on live television. At least he was a good sport, and we could hear him comfort Pini Gershon and thank him for his and his team's efforts.

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