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Olmert's Last Word

A “Likud Prince,” raised in the tradition of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Ehud Olmert’s career has led him from the far right (he was among the leaders of the drive inside Likud against Prime Minsiter Menachem Begin’s plan to return the Sinai to Egypt) to the left, with borderline treasonous action against Jewish settlers and the stability of the Jewish State, and finally to a series of convictions on embezzlement and obstruction of justice.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who began a 19-month jail term Monday morning for taking bribes and betraying the public’s trust, issued a YouTube appeal on the night before he donned the prison uniform for the first time, absolving himself of all the crimes for which he had been convicted. And while Olmert is not the first convict in the history of prisons who claims to be not guilty, his style and manner of a sad martyr accepting the yoke of the law for the benefit of society are a lesson in narcissism.


For the record, Olmert was acquitted on appeal by the Supreme Court on the central charge against him, the bribe taking he was originally convicted for. That cut his sentence from six years to 18 months. Then he signed a plea deal with the prosecution, admitting to repeated attempts to persuade his chief of staff Shula Zaken to lie in court – for which the prosecutor asked that his sentence be served concurrently, meaning, in effect, to let the crime of obstruction of justice go unpunished. In the end Olmert ended up serving just one additional month for that crime.

So that any unbiased observer would probably conclude that for a public servant who has done so much to degrade the Israeli political system, Ehud Olmert got away with close to murder. At the end on his first year in country club Ma’asiayhu prison—seemingly designed by politicians for that future time when the limelight shines on their hand in the cookie jar—Olmert will apply for early release for good behavior and likely get it. After all, what act of bad behavior could he perform in there? Attack former president Moshe Katzav with a sheave?

“This morning I will go to jail to serve my sentence,” Olmert begins his YouTube video, which, as of Monday morning has been decidedly non-viral, with 124 views. “My guards from the VIP security unit will accompany me there, and the prison staff will guard me throughout my prison term.”

“As prime minister I was deposited with the supreme responsibility of guarding the security of Israel’s citizens. And today I am the one who is about to be locked behind bars,” Olmert notes, continuing, “You can probably imagine how painful and strange this change has been for me, for my family, and for my loved ones and supporters. At this time it is important for me to say once more, as I have said in and out of the courtroom, that I deny completely the indictments against me.

“It is also important for me to emphasize that one of the indictments on which I was convicted does not relate to my time in office as Prime Minister.

“I have had the great privilege to serve the public as Knesset Member, as Minister, as Mayor of the city of Jerusalem and as Israel’s Prime Minister. I have had the honor to partake in a plethora of meaningful and exciting steps in Israel’s society, and my years as public servant continue to fill me with a sense of satisfaction and pride.

“During my extensive activity I also made mistakes, although in my opinion they were not criminal in nature. For some of them I’m paying a high price today. Perhaps too high. With a heavy heart I accept the verdict. No man is above the law.

“I opted of my own free will to be a public servant, a track with many challenges and much satisfaction alongside heavy tolls—one of which is the emerging of an image that does not truly represent the complexity of my life, my personality and my choices. Unfortunately, over the years I have been portrayed as corrupt.

“My term as prime minister ended prematurely and under the shadow of police investigations. And today I am a former prime minister about to begin serving a prison term. It is an extraordinary and serious step, which may be viewed by some as confirmation of the resilience of the Israeli democracy. I ask at the same breath to also raise the possibly that the judicial snowball in my case kept growing for a plethora of additional reasons that were not purely judicial.

“Maybe when the storm calms and the engagement in my situation will return to its normal proportions, some of those issues will receive a different interpretation and saner dimensions. Perhaps from a more distant vantage point the public will be able to reexamine this sad moment with a critical and balanced view. I believe the Israeli democracy needs this, too. I hope that then many will acknowledge the fact that during my service as prime minister we have made sincere and promising attempts to open the door to the hope for a better future of peace, joy and prosperity.

“Finally, I’ll say this: life is presenting me with a test that isn’t simple. I go to it with great sadness. But the love, support and solidarity which I have been receiving these days strengthen me for what’s coming. Thank you very much.”

For three minutes and 27 seconds we watch the grand showmanship of a gifted and eloquent orator defending his crimes without a shred of remorse, never losing his tormented martyr’s face, all innocent and brave like. This tape should be in the syllabus of every department of psychology as part of every discussion of politicians as narcissistic sociopaths.

Never mind the fact that Olmert dragged out his case from 2008, using every legal maneuver his considerable wealth afforded him — can’t begrudge a man for doing his best to defend himself. And never mind that he was caught on tape instructing his COS to lie to police and the court — a man’s gotta’ do what a man’s gotta’ do. And never mind that Olmert is clearly preparing his comeback at some point after the prison gates open up for him — if Aryeh Deri could do it, why not Ehud Olmert?

But when Ehud Olmert represents himself as someone who has made sincere and promising attempts to open the door to the hope for a better future of peace, joy and prosperity, many in Israel, especially on the right, would beg to differ.

Olmert was a cheerleader for the eviction of close to 10,000 Jews from the Gaza Strip and the withdrawal of IDF forces from Gaza. In fact, when then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon realized he was losing his own party, the Likud’s support for the move, he left to start his own party — and Olmert followed him dutifully. Olmert is now joining a long list of pro-evacuation Israeli public officials, including at least one of his new prison mates, former president Moshe Katzav, who have either died prematurely (Sharon), gone to jail or lost their careers (Shaul Mofaz).

Olmert was later credited with a meaningless war in Lebanon in 2006 that cost the needless lives of 121 IDF soldiers and 44 Israeli civilians. The war exposed Israel’s vulnerability to Hezbolla’s rockets as well as Olmert’s near-criminal neglect of Israel’s security.

Following the 2006 Lebanon War, Olmert’s popularity fell miserably, to the point where former chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon publicly stated he should resign. In May 2007, Olmert’s approval rating fell to 3 percent. At which point Olmert, in a kind of Hail Mary, welcomed the Arab League’s 2007 Peace Initiative, and declared that Israel was ready to make “painful concessions” to achieve peace with the Palestinians. During the talks, Olmert agreed to share Jerusalem as the joint capital of Israel and a Palestinian state and hand over its holy sites to a multinational committee. He agreed to land swaps that would allow Israel to keep some of the settlements in Judea and Samaria—the “settlement blocks,” construct a tunnel connecting the PA and Hamas halves of the Palestinian State, accepting 10,000 “Palestinian refugees” in Israel, and demilitarizing the Jordan Valley under an American-led international security force.

That’s almost too much joy for one man to bestow. But then came the 2008 Gaza war, when the joy of exiling Gaza’s Jews was merged with the joy of a 22-day invasion of the Gaza Strip with zero results, as Israel was being viciously bombarded for the first time by Hamas rockets—quite differently from the promise of peace offered by the Jewish government that transferred Jews.

To Israel’s right-wing (which comprises, at last count, about 70% of the Jewish public), Olmert is paying this Monday not only for his brazen disregard of duty and honesty in public service, but also for his criminal conspiracy, together with several other Israeli public servants (MK Tzipi Livni comes to mind), to slash Israel’s territory, exposing it to unimaginable terror from outside and inside.

Thank God for ridding us of this human ticking bomb.


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