Israel: Olmert will go, but the political crisis will stick

Militant social and workers’ struggles

If it was just another citizen, a criminal investigation would be conducted under conditions of arrest. Not so in the case of Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is now facing his fifth corruption scandal investigation.

These corruption accusations involve: promoting the interests of certain capitalist tycoons over others, benefiting political go-getters, and squeezing out some huge sums of money for personal luxury from such millionaires as his American friend, Morris Talansky. This is usual business in capitalist politics. Former prime ministers Sharon, Netanyahu, Barak, and all sorts of ministers and politicians, were exposed one after the other for such sleaze in recent years.

It’s not that now the Israeli public has got sick to the bones of him and his government; that already happened immediately following the 2006 horrific war on Hezbollah in Lebanon, which ridiculed Israel’s military power. Different polls gave him barely 3% of approval then. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of Jewish and Arab citizens have come out in different struggles, confronting the government since (excluding the struggles in the Palestinian territories, where residents are deprived of any democratic say about the occupying government).

Back then, the defence minister and General Chief of Staff were compelled to resign. Olmert’s foreign minister and ruling party colleague Tzipi Livni was quick to call on him to do the same, imagining she’d boost her career by this. The new defence minister, Ehud Barak, promised to take his party, ‘Labour’ (Avoda), out of government if an inquiry commission found Olmert "responsible" for the war!

When such a commission implicitly blamed Olmert and when the exposed corruption scandals spread in the political establishment, ‘Labour’ and Livni stayed put. Now they’re under pressure to threaten Olmert again.

All parties in government denounce each other and Olmert’s party Kadima is shaken with all the leading hyenas wrestling over the crown and criticising him publicly. The local and international press now extravagantly complain about him. Only yesterday he was portrayed as imperialism’s hope for new peace deals. Even Bush, on a visit to Israel in January, asked the government ministers to keep Olmert in power. And he was kept in power, like his predecessor Sharon.

But it seems that the new pressures in the political establishment are too much for the already fragile coalition government. The reason Olmert has survived so far is because there is no way out for the ruling parties.

As a result of the brutal neo-liberal attacks on workers and poor throughout the past three decades, there has been a serious crumbling in the traditional parties’ electoral base, particularly in that of the traditional ruling class party, Labour.

Kadima (Forward) was created by Ariel Sharon as an attempt to solve this situation, but has failed miserably. It is the biggest party but attained only 29 parliament seats out of 120.

So desperate are the attempts among the ruling class to reach some stabilisation pact, that there’s increasing propaganda for introducing a "presidential system".

Regrouping

In the meantime, the collaborative team of the head of the Industrialists Association and the head of the unions’ federation got involved directly in efforts to form a sort of merger between Kadima and Labour, headed by Livni and Barak. And so, early elections – a tradition since the 1980s – will probably be called once again.

Such political regroupings will not solve the deep political crisis of Israel, especially considering the developing economic crisis, with the last quarter being the worst one in years for the biggest banks and corporations. Inflation is on the rise. And after, in recent years, Israel’s longest-ever period of economic growth (which has meant growth in poverty and worsened working conditions for workers), the social crisis deepened further.

Whether the next government is headed by right-wing Likud or by a sort of alignment on the side of Kadima and Labour, the recent militant social and workers’ struggles in Israel will prove to be the tip of the iceberg, as workers, youth and different groups will have no choice but to get organised and wage a struggle to protect their interests.

Eventually, as a way out of crisis, Israeli workers will have to forge an independent workers’ party, which could pose a socialist alternative to the Israeli ruling class and its imperialist backers.