The Final Nail

Ehud Olmert will not be the first prime minister to be indicted.

There are not two Ehud Olmerts, one private and one public, one for criminal investigations and the other for the investigation of the Second Lebanon War. He is one and the same person, his behavior is one and the same: covetous, cantankerous, a person who will go to any lengths to get what he wants.

The criminal file, which is growing ever thicker, will be the final nail in Olmert's political coffin, if that nail is still needed. Fortunately for Israel, political events have outpaced the legal process. Olmert will not be able to lay claim to the title of "first Israeli prime minister to be indicted while still in office," because his fall will precede the indictment that increasingly seems unavoidable. By then he will be a former prime minister and will not be able to use the promise of his resignation as part of a plea bargain.

Ariel Sharon was the first serving prime minister against whom a criminal indictment was drafted. It was drafted by then state prosecutor Edna Arbel and pulled by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. This year history repeated itself, with two important differences. The first is the difference between the two brand names: Sharon and Olmert. In Sharon's case, people waxed nostalgic about his military exploits. Olmert had the image of a hedonist, and other, less amusing stories also circulated about him. Thus, the suspicion that Olmert "is operating in a field of conflict of interests," in the delicate words of a source familiar with the criminal investigations against Olmert, did not surprise either the police or the state prosecution. The second difference is the good professional relations between Mazuz and State Prosecutor Eran Shendar. There is little chance that Mazuz will overturn Shendar's decision.

In the Bank Leumi privatization affair, Shendar is Mazuz. Mazuz recused himself from the case because his sister Yemima, legal adviser to the Finance Ministry, was involved in it. This obliged the justice minister to appoint Shendar acting attorney general. The investigation is expected to be completed before Shendar steps down at the end of the summer, with an indictment against Olmert likely.

The question is whether Shendar and his team can be persuaded that the probability of conviction is high. In theory, everything is open; in practice, the attorneys working on the case are close to being persuaded.

Bank Leumi is not the only child in the family of Olmert prosecution files; it's only the eldest brother. Its sister, involving political appointments in the Small Business Authority (SBA), was passed on to Mazuz and then to the State Prosecutor's Office en route to the police. It has waited until now for the Investments Center case. Finally, there is the youngest child - or perhaps the bastard son - case, involving Olmert's purchase of a house on Cremieux Street in Jerusalem. The inclination is toward family unification: combining the cases. Three of the cases are considered serious, while the fourth is "light to moderate."

According to the material in the files, and after the media reports about them diminished the ability to collect evidence, it can be conjectured that the draft indictment will address three cases: Bank Leumi, the SBA and the Investments Center. If the Cremieux Street file is closed - pending Mazuz's ability to defending that course of action in the High Court of Justice - it will prove that the state prosecution is acting in good faith and is not persecuting Olmert.

The evidence against Olmert is being collected by a joint prosecution-police task force led by Shendar and police investigations and intelligence chief Yohanan Danino. Of course, all this is not to say that Olmert, even if slapped with a triple indictment, will be convicted. The state will have to persuade a judge, and perhaps an appeals court, that he is guilty of breach of trust. By then, months or years will have passed, and Olmert's tenure as prime minister will be a dim memory. History will record one achievement next to his name: No prime minister before him ever had a special police-prosecution task force created in his honor.