Lowest of the low

PM ignores lowly approval rating, adopts scorched-earth policy to save himself

Published: 07.27.08, 17:23 / Israel Opinion

How low can one go? When it comes to math, the bottom is infinite; in politics, the bottom is zero – and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is very close to getting there: In the latest public opinion poll undertaken by the Dahaf Institute and Dr. Mina Tzemach on behalf of Yedioth Ahronoth, only 6% of Israelis said Olmert is fit to be a PM.

This figure should be read a few times in order to grasp its full implication: 94 out of every 100 Israeli adults believe Olmert is not worthy of being a prime minister. This is the lowest figure ever for an elected prime minister in Israel or any other democratic country.

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Popularity is one thing, but look at his credibility: Only 12% of Israel’s citizens trust their prime minister either wholly or partly. Meanwhile, 86% of Israelis say Olmert is untrustworthy.

In the past, I analyzed the public opinion polls undertaken by Dr. Tzemach for Yedioth Ahronoth. Ariel Sharon was the king of credibility: He was perceived as a trustworthy prime minister by 66% to 82% of Israelis. Even Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu, on the verge of an election defeat, maintained minimal credibility levels of 35% to 45%.

As it turns out, Moshe Talansky’s cross-examination, which was supposed to “shatter” the witness and his testimony, hurt Olmert. For 60% of Israelis, the Talansky cross-examination lowered their trust in the prime minister, while only 2% said it boosted their level of trust. Talansky’s credibility is three times higher than Olmert’s.

In his frenzied briefings over the weekend, Olmert attempted to attribute the complete collapse in his public credibility to police and State Prosecutor’s Office conspiracies. He said these two institutions set their sights on him and are “eliminating him.”

Olmert keeps on whining

When it comes to the Olmert affair, the Prosecutor’s Office erred often, and some of those mistakes are outrageous, unforgivable, and require deep procedural revisions. The police also stumbled here and there, although less so. Yet the prime minister’s claims that the police and Prosecutor’s Office, including dozens of their senior figures, are conspiring to oust him are unfounded.

I already said it before: If this is what the PM believes, he should immediately order the Shin Bet to detain the top police brass, senior Prosecutor’s Office officials, and the attorney general on charges of subversion and national treason. This is what Olmert would do had he suspected of a conspiracy for an IDF putsch.

Yet the fact that Olmert just keeps on whining (like any other person under investigation) in the media attests both to the insincerity of his claims as well as to the personal fears that overcome him as the day of his indictment approaches. The public doesn’t buy into his whining. According to the poll, 50% of Israelis believe that the police are credible, and 57% believe that the Prosecutor’s Office is credible. As we recall, only 12% believe Olmert is trustworthy.

It is clear what Olmert aspires for: A situation where he can argue that, under the circumstances that have been created, he cannot get a fair trial in the State of Israel – after all, he was already “court-martialed” and his “verdict has been decided through leaks to the media” – therefore, he will ask to immediately annul the indictment against him. Or perhaps he’ll ask to be tried by the International Court at The Hague?

Olmert is adopting a scorched-earth policy. In order to save himself, for selfish reasons, he does not hesitate to undermine law enforcement institutions in Israel. He has implicitly also threatened the police and Prosecutor’s Office – threats that would land a less distinguished suspect in jail.

The prime minister’s behavior is damaging for everyone, including himself: Because of it, 94% of Israelis want another prime minister today.

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