If a few weeks ago we thought that a public figure, an Israeli leader, could not get any more entangled in something lower, more shameful or more embarrassing than the Talansky affair and the envelopes, we were wrong. If the version of the police and the State Prosecutor's Office is correct, his relationship to the elderly fixer with the deep pockets will seem like mischief compared with the alleged affair nicknamed "Olmert Tours."
The new investigation, Olmert's sixth, which blew up Friday about 24 hours before he left for Paris for an important international conference, touches on everything Israel holds dear: the memory of the Holocaust and its survivors, blind students, mentally disabled children, and soldiers.
According to the allegations, Olmert got his hands on the funds of these organizations, for which he raised quite a bit of money over the years, to fly his family around the world. If these allegations are true, Olmert will be spared no word of condemnation in the Israeli lexicon, and rightly so. No other politician will be forced out of office in such shame, to disappear forever from public life.
It is difficult to imagine that law-enforcement authorities would dare level such weighty accusations at an Israeli prime minister if they did not have solid proof. The versions of the investigators and Olmert's attorneys is contradictory: The investigators speak of some $100,000 taken fraudulently; the attorneys speak of much smaller sums, of irregularities and negligence.
The message of Olmert's associates Saturday was clear: The police are aiming to unseat the prime minister. They even used the word "putsch."
However we look at it, woe to us: Either we have been blessed with a prime minister who stops at nothing to line his pockets, or we have a police force and prosecution that has taken out a contract on our senior elected official.
Even before Rishon Tours entered our lives, we could hardly understand how Olmert could continue his public life with the waves of investigations. From Friday, it is inconceivable. This time, he is also dragging his family through the muck.
Last night, in a briefing for legal reporters by those "close to the investigation," his wife Aliza, his son Ariel and his daughter Dana were mentioned specifically.
Olmert's skin is reportedly as thick as an elephant's. But how much more can he take?
People who spoke with Olmert over the weekend said he seemed emotionally drained and beaten. He continues to hang his hopes on the Talansky cross-examination. If the five days of questioning refute a good many of Talansky's statements, it might put the the double-billing affair in a less severe light. If not, Olmert might choose to draw conclusions in some way.
Meanwhile, there is nothing new in the political system. MKs Gideon Sa'ar (Likud), Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) and Zevulun Orlev (National Union-National Religious Party) condemned Olmert. Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was not heard from. He has been burned quite a bit regarding trips abroad. Labor is waiting quietly. In any case, Olmert is being deposed by his party. "Might you issue a new ultimatum?" an associate of Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak was asked Saturday. No need, he answered. You don't kick a dead body.
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