It's Hard to Be Weaned Off Zelekha

Lindenstrauss and Zelekha hoped to wipe out corruption, but they fell in love with their image as pursuers of justice.

The natural tendency is to view the Ehud Olmert-Bank Leumi case in terms of a western; as a moral showdown between the good guys and bad guys. The problem is that the scriptwriter is a wise guy. Instead of deciding who is the good guy and who is the scoundrel, he left the choice up to the viewers. Some are sure the prime minister is the corrupt one who took over the town until he faced off at high noon against the two justice fighters - State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and Accountant General Yaron Zelekha. Others are sure Olmert is the righteous one who fell victim to the plots of the two power-drunk lawmen.

The temporary result - a police recommendation to close the case due to a lack of evidence - means Olmert is the good guy. According to the laws of westerns, the good guy always wins, so Olmert has come out as the hero of the righteous camp and his opponents came out as the bad guys.

But this is a simplistic interpretation. The Olmert-Bank Leumi affair should not be viewed as a western, but as a psychological drama series that explores the concept of relative morality. There are no good guys or bad guys - only people full of weaknesses whose character dictates their fate.

Olmert is far from being righteous - he is arrogant and his disdain for the rules of the game and moral flexibility continue to thrust him into conflicts of interest, which even if they do not slip into criminality, cast aspersions on his good judgment and invite suspicions and complaints at every turn. In this sense, he lets himself off the hook when he blames others for his troubles. If we stick a bit longer with the literary metaphor, one can find tragic potential in the story: Just when he is trying to achieve greatness, the demons of the past come to terrorize him, dragging him into the mud and threatening to ruin his career.

Lindenstrauss and Zelekha are not scoundrels - they are two guardians at the gate with overdeveloped egos who hoped to wipe out corruption. But along the way they fell in love with their image as pursuers of justice, were blinded by their power and publicity, and in the end confused the public interest with their own. Lindenstrauss ignored all the boring public missteps that accompanied the Bank Leumi privatization and focused on Olmert's personal conduct. That was where his glory in the media lay. Zelekha deviated in midstream and took up a personal vendetta against Olmert. He forged an unprecedented political and media lobby and crossed every boundary a public servant could cross.

Zelekha had a central role in blowing the affair out of proportion. In the context of the general antagonism toward Olmert and the longing for a public "stable cleaning," he was considered the natural candidate for righteous prophet who would purify by removing the prime minister. The trouble is that Zelekha - a megalomaniac, an incorrigible exaggerator and populist - was an unfortunate casting error. The Bank Leumi affair only exposed his lack of suitability for his intended role.

Politicians with interests and journalists with a sense of mission bought into Zelekha's tendentious evaluations, blinded by his victimization, and developed an uncritical ideological obligation toward him. Their campaign affected not only public opinion, but also the state prosecutor's office, which chose the safe way and ordered the police investigation, even though it had all the information to know there was no basis for an indictment.

It is now difficult for those intoxicated by Zelekha to be weaned off him. It is much easier for them to believe the outgoing accountant general than the chief of the police's intelligence and investigations division, Yohanan Danino. They find it difficult to hide their disappointment, and they refuse to come to terms with the police recommendation (with which all the investigators and the state prosecutor's representative agreed). They accuse Danino of yielding to authority in order to be promoted, they urge the incoming state prosecutor to reverse the decision, and they are cheering Zelekha all the way to the High Court of Justice.

Their continued campaign will only worsen the crisis of confidence between the public and government and law enforcement. They know that this round is apparently lost, but they are getting ready for the next chapter in the drama - the case of the house on Cremieux Street. If they shout loud enough, maybe this time Danino will get scared.