Photo: Ido Erez
'The judge's verdict presented an Olmert his close friends are unfamiliar with'
Photo: Ido Erez
Eitan Haber

The two Ehud Olmerts

Op-ed: The smart, seasoned politician and good friend was overpowered by a man who let success go to his head.

Almost every senior officeholder in the Israeli government, and definitely a mayor, is familiar with the heavy weight placed on his shoulders when papers are put in front of him to be signed.



Hundreds of thousands of eyes seek the mayor's signature: Will more floors be built to fill up the pockets of several contractors, or will they be deprived of quick moneymaking? Will the trash cans be emptied twice a week or every morning? It all depends on the ruler's signature. His signature can take him to the top, but it can also bring him down. Ehud Olmert, it seems, had one signature too many.


Olmert's close friends are still in shock: The description which came out of Judge David Rozen's mouth on Monday does not befit the qualities of a person who served as minister in Israel's governments, the mayor of the most important city in the country and prime minister. They only know the first Ehud Olmert: Smart, a seasoned politician and mostly a good friend.


True, they also thought he was a big hedonist, fond of expensive cigars and a guest of honor in luxurious hotel suites around the world – but the hedonism was understandable: The explanation, in popular psychology, was that a person who groaned under the burden of poverty during his youth would want to breathe mountain air.


The friends paid him back with love for the patting on the back, the friendship which stood the tests and even the attempt to help a rebellious bother – who is part of the reason he is probably expected to spend a long time behind bars.


But Judge Rozen's long ruling also brought up a picture which the former prime minister's friends are unfamiliar with: The second Olmert. According to the verdict, the second Olmert let his important positions go to his head. He could not withstand the waves of flattery, the almost unlimited ability to make a change, to build more floors, to change history in Jerusalem and later in the entire state. It's hard to withstand such a trial: Every wink, every look, were interpreted as a decision being made. There are quite a few who pass this test. Others fall into this honey trap.


At least according to the verdict, Olmert failed. As mayor, and definitely as prime minister, one can fall into these temptations dozens and hundreds of times a day. But one must not make a mistake. One must also not lose one's way in the paths leading to the wrong places. The second Olmert likely followed such a path.


It turns out that the second Olmert overpowered the first Olmert. His friends and supporters had a day of mourning Monday. For justice and integrity seekers it was a day of joy.


The claim that Israel is a corrupt country received further support Monday. The fact that we have a president sitting in jail, that a prime minister could go to jail, that ministers have already sat in jail, that a chief rabbi is expected to stand trial, and that there are more investigations on the way should serve as a certificate of honor for a state rooting corruption out of its arteries.


But who will present the state with this certificate of honor? The man who was president? The former prime minister? And perhaps the ceremony itself should be held within the walls of the Ramla prison.


פרסום ראשון: 04.02.14, 19:50
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