Surprised, but not threatened
It started out as a good day for Prime Minister Ehud Olm ert. In the morning he appeared before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the first time since "the attack against the nuclear installation in Syria, according to foreign news reports." After that he attended the swearing-in ceremony for the new minister without portfolio, Ami Ayalon, who used to attack Olmert but now found a comfortable seat in his cabinet.
Following "the operation in Syria," which was translated into favorable results in the polls, it appeared that Olmert's public standing is on the rise, and that he is quietly and confidently making his way to the Washington peace summit scheduled for mid-November.
And then came the announcement of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, about the criminal investigation against the prime minister in the case of the "hous e on Cremieux Street." The decision came as a surprise to Olmert and his aides, who had expected a closing of the case. They had relied on assessments leaked from the Ministry of Justice, which suggested that the matter would be closed. The Mazuz announcement made the headlines and ruined the day for all of them.
Of all the investigations and affairs involving Olmert, the one about the house on Cremieux Street harmed him the most. No other story hurt or upset him more. He insists that there is no truth to the claims against him, that he bought the house honestly, and that he is "being framed" by his detractors. No surprise that Olmert issued an angry response yesterday about an "unnecessary investigation." In this way he diverted from the normal behavior of Israeli public figures suspected of criminal behavior, who always welcome in public the investigation against them "expecting that it will prove their innocence."
Investigative reporter Yoav Yitzhak, who broke the story, claimed that the country will shake when the evidence emerges. Mazuz's decision did not decide between the versions of Olmert and Yitzhak - it only delayed the decision to indict or to close the case until the end of the investigation, which will take many months. Until then, all those involved will be asked to repeat the stories they told the state comptroller and to the police investigators.
It is hard to believe that the AG's decision will crush Olmert at the polls. Those close to him say that the case is not new, and the public is finding it difficult to follow the developments of the investigation. Only if there are particularly juicy details will the story really affect Olmert's public standing. All the investigations against Olmert will shadow him, but they will not, for the time being, challenge his hold on the premiership.
The coalition partners will not abandon Olmert because of the investigations, and there will be no rebellion in Kadima. None of the politicians who compete with each other for time spent in police investigation rooms will take a chance at setting a troubling precedent that may catch up with them in the future. The right will say that he renewed talks with Palestinians in order to dispel the weight of the investigation against him, as Ariel Sharon did with the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. So far no one is buying these claims.