Ehud Olmert concluded his career as a public figure in a sad television announcement on Thursday, one he read with a fallen face. Even if his questioning in the Holyland affair leads to naught, and even if he is exonerated in the Rishon Tours, money envelopes and the Investments Center affairs, he will not be able to return to politics. It's over. Henceforth, all he can do is defend what is left of his good name.
Something broke in him Thursday. Yes, it was the same Olmert, who makes claims against the press and offered determined denials of suspicions against him. But the fervor, the aggressiveness and the determination that once characterized him were no longer there. The more he read, the more his face fell over the sheet he was holding. He admitted that the endless investigations had caused him "substantial hardship." Perhaps he was hoping to stir some feelings of pity among he viewers at home.
Olmert faced a triple problem. First, he is the main suspect in the most serious corruption case ever investigated in Israel. A state witness described a complex and organized financial crime touching all the authorities involved in planning and building in Jerusalem, public officials, civil servants and even a senior police officer.
Olmert, according to the state witness, topped the list of suspects - the biggest bribe taker, who assisted the masterminds of the crime while he served as Jerusalem mayor and industry and trade minister. He seems to have been caught in the web of others and used his authority and political power in their service.
Secondly, Olmert described the claims against him as "an unprecedented effort" at character assassination and declared that he never asked for or received bribes. His support for the Holyland project in Jerusalem stemmed, he said, from his wish to boost tourism and attract a secular population to the capital. He blamed changes in the construction plan on his successor, Uri Lupolianski, who was arrested Wednesday as a suspect in the case.
But even if Olmert is right and he is being victimized, he did not try to protect the other suspects in the case. But if suspicions against them are correct, then criminals ran the municipality under Olmert. If he was blind to what was happening, he is still responsible, and such a silly man should not be elected to office. His third problem is that the public is simply fed up.
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