Nostalgia on the Horizon

Olmert's potential heirs are like open books before us, which we have read and commented on more than once.

Ehud Olmert's friends dreamed up some nostalgia this weekend: Soon you'll miss him, they are predicting and warning. Is it their own wishful thinking? Not necessarily. The friends may well be right.

Their prediction of pending nostalgia is based on the disappointment that they expect us to feel from the man or woman who succeeds Olmert. Dear friends, sorrow not. We know the potential heirs one by one, and we have no illusions about their power or the strength of their personalities. They are like open books before us, which we have read and commented on more than once; we've read better books in our life.

Nostalgia works in mysterious ways: It is the nature of human beings to long for those who have exited the stage, as though things used to be better, even though in some cases they used to be much worse. It is uncertain, our nostalgia, and cannot always be logically explained; in most cases it rests on a short, deceitful memory.

There are many who long for Nicholas II or Stalin in Russia, for Mussolini in Italy, for Evita in Argentina, while in the United States, George W. Bush is benefiting the memory of Nixon. And we'd best not wander too far down Nostalgia Lane, for who knows where we might end up.

Here, on the other hand, nostalgia is a chronic illness. The longing is not only for David Ben-Gurion or Levi Eshkol, but for Golda Meir. Not only Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin, but even Yitzhak Shamir triggers fond memories of the Stone Age. The greater our frustration gets, the more we miss those seasonal streams and hollow shells, which never housed a pearl. Don't the most recent polls suggest that there is now even nostalgia for Benjamin Netanyahu, especially among those whose hearts he broke, and whose livelihood he took away?

That is the rule, then: Every person, even a politician, has his or her hour of nostalgia; and if the friends are right in claiming that even Olmert will be missed, we are facing grave calamity indeed. The vision they see is a harsh one. A belated longing for Olmert will be an indication we are in truly dire straits.

And yet Olmert's resignation has two eternal advantages, secured forever, regardless of the ebb and flow of the ocean of memory and nostalgia. First advantage: Anyone who succeeds Olmert, any prime-minister-to-be, will breathe cold air on corruption and make sure that his or her chair never heats up. Now they all know that if they cost us dearly, they will pay dearly too; their end will be humiliation. Although like their predecessors they will try to rack up credit, as is the custom, they won't necessarily do it at a travel agency.

Second advantage: From now on, no one can claim that he or she was persecuted on the basis of ethnicity. Avigdor Lieberman and Arcadi Gaydamak will not be believed if they claim to be hounded because of their Russianness; Aryeh Deri and Shlomo Benizri can no longer complain about judges, prosecutors and investigators pursing them only because they are Moroccan.

No one is immune anymore: Here is a sitting prime minister, forced to resign before the investigation is completed and an indictment is formulated against him. The suspicions are so grave that they alone tilt the scales. And he, the man reluctantly leaving his office, is a bona fide Ashkenazi, a native son born to a good family from Binyamina, a "prince," no less.