ANALYSIS / Police Move Won't Hasten Olmert's Departure

AG may take a long time to decide on an indictment; in meantime, all PM can do is bicker with his deposers.

In a carefully orchestrated and not-at-all surprising manner, the main evening news broadcasts opened Sunday night with an announcement of something we had all expected: The police have recommended indicting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his involvement in the Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs.

Although the police made their decision in the afternoon, somehow the news broke at precisely 8 P.M. An investigation that was started by the press reached its climax on television - where else? Anyone who did not see this coming the day Attorney General Menachem Mazuz himself appeared in court, wearing his robes and carrying his files, is either naive, asinine or an alien.

Sunday, the suspect Olmert launched an offensive during the cabinet meeting to divert some attention from the headlines concerning the police's expected recommendations. He assailed Defense Minister Ehud Barak, accusing him of a variety of charges that bordered on betraying the homeland. This surprised everyone so much that they realized that the only explanation for the outburst was that it was supposed to steal some of the limelight from the other news that evening. Indeed, Olmert's plan succeeded - in part.

Now in the twilight of his tenure, all that's left is to bicker. So much has been written about the hatred that the deposed person feels toward his deposers, about the hatred between the two Ehuds, that there's nothing new left to write. These two and their hissing attacks at each other will be with us for a long time, like two wild cats. We just have to pray that Israel does not have to undergo an existential security test while these two are jointly running the country. This government's death throes are indeed ugly. But at least we are not in danger.

The government meeting room on the third floor of the Prime Minister's Office has seen some wild spectacles and harsh exchanges in its day, but never such extremes of mutual hatred and ruthless backstabbing. The Olmert-Barak-Haim Ramon trio has made the cabinet roil with violent rhetoric. They resemble a soccer team on the verge of inevitable relegation: In the final moments, the coach tells the players to just relax and enjoy themselves.

In political maneuvering Olmert always beats Barak. It isn't even really a fair match.

Again Olmert raised a majority to approve the bill proposed by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann concerning the definition of the judiciary's role, in regard to the Basic Law. It is doubtful the bill will become legislation as it has a long way to go, and the identity of the prime minister is likely to change. Both leading candidates for that position - Kadima's Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz - voted against the proposed legislation Sunday. In fact, the Knesset may be dispersed before it can be passed.

One must bear in mind that the police's recommendation in itself is not a big deal. Many police recommendations to indict prime ministers have been thrown into the trash can of history, and it may still be a long time until an indictment is submitted. Before that occurs, the attorney general needs to hold a hearing, and after the delays in the indictment of former president Moshe Katsav for sexual offenses - who knows how long this case will drag out? In any case, Olmert is a dead horse. Occasionally, he still kicks, but his kicks are weak.

Olmert will fight for his name to be cleared as a civilian. Anyone who thought that a police recommendation would hasten his departure - perhaps in the form of taking a leave of absence - was proved wrong Sunday night, when his bureau stated that such a recommendation had no legal standing. And so Olmert is still with us, until the new coalition is formed or general elections are held.