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Calming the waters. Olmert Photo: Reuters
Calming the waters. Olmert Photo: Reuters
 
 

Ehud Olmert says goodbye

PM wanted to depart like Tony Blair, but he reminds most Israelis of Tony Soprano

Attila Somfalvi
Published: 07.31.08, 09:40 / Israel Opinion

Ehud Olmert did the obvious thing; the thing that was required of him; the unavoidable thing. The spin saga that took place in the political establishment in recent weeks, aimed to at showing that Olmert is debating whether to run for the Kadima leadership or not, was an insult to intelligence. It was clear to everyone that Olmert won’t contend. He simply cannot. Not at his status. Not after Morris Talansky, and the leaks, and the latest suspicions against him.

Dramatic Announcement
Olmert announces will step down after Kadima primaries / Attila Somfalvi
In dramatic public address, Olmert announces Wednesday evening he will not seek reelection in upcoming Kadima primaries. Confirming he will step down once new chairman is elected, Olmert pledges fight to clear his name
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Despite the drama created Wednesday night ahead of Olmert’s announcement, the dignified speech he delivered took the drama out of the drama. Had he announced that he is running in the primaries, it could have been an earthquake.

 

Yet Olmert decided to calm the waters and put an end to the chaos. It is clear to everyone how things will be managed from now on, at least on Olmert’s part. It isn’t clear if and when an alternative government will be formed, but if that happens, Olmert won’t make any shady deals. In terms of that, the prime minister prepared a dignified departure for himself. Meanwhile, he’s still here in the coming months.

 

After Olmert’s announcement, his associates spoke of hesitations, consultations with the family, and the dilemmas he faced. They said that 10 days ago he told his close associates at the PM’s Office about his intentions. Despite the significant announcement, nobody shed a tear. Not even his people.

 

Olmert’s announcement will have an effect in several areas. First – the uncertainty is over, and so is the costume ball. Knesset members who maintained Olmert’s honor have been liberated from the limitations. They are free to decide who they’re supporting and free to do politics without hiding. Secondly, Olmert earned a little quiet. Now, for several months, perhaps they will let him work and move ahead with diplomatic negotiations the way he wants to do. Instead of focusing on Olmert, the spotlight will be turned to his potential successors.

 

Olmert’s advisors attempted to portray a complex and somewhat sentimental picture of developments behind the scenes of the announcement. We had three models, they said:

 

1. The model of Menachem Begin, who got up and just quit (“I cannot go on”). Yet this model, the PM’s advisors said, does not suit Olmert’s character.

 

2. The “compete at any cost” model, without thinking of the effect and price.

 

3. The model of Tony Blair, who left the premiership in an orderly manner and left his party enough time to prepare.

 

Olmert chose the last model, the advisors said. The model of a responsible, level-headed adult, the one who does not take the entire building down with him; one who is concerned about the party and the country.

 

The problem with this story, as romantic as it may be, is that Blair did not go home because of serious suspicions like the ones faced by Olmert. Blair was forced to go after he lost the trust of the British public, particularly against the backdrop of the Iraq war.

 

Despite the advisors’ attempt to portray the PM as an Israeli version of Tony Blair, when the public looks at Ehud Olmert it sees another Tony – Tony Soprano. 

 

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