Olmert's Horror Show

Like Katsav a year and a half ago, Olmert is using images such as "kangaroo court" and "witch-hunting campaign" to describe the attitude of the police and prosecutor's office toward him.

More than anything else, Ehud Olmert's behavior in recent months is reminiscent of Moshe Katsav's in January 2007. A year and a half ago, when Israel's president felt the noose tightening around his neck, he lashed out against the attorney general and the police. Today, when the police investigation is gradually pushing the prime minister into a corner, he is using the exact same method: slandering those responsible for law enforcement and implying that they are motivated by extraneous considerations.

This way of dealing with the suspicions, which is common to both men, is not surprising because their situation is similar (although the crimes they are being interrogated for are different). Both behaved disgracefully for years, exploiting their public status; both concealed their embarrassing behavior; both are reacting like wounded animals when their shame is exposed; and both are aiming their claws at the authorities and the people tasked with revealing their corrupt acts.

In doing so, president Katsav (while he had that role) and Olmert are ignoring their governmental responsibilities, as well as the commitments and symbolic significance of their positions. In their fury and despair they are trying to smash the authority of the attorney general, the police chief and the courts, and they don't care about the possible consequences of their attacks on the general public's attitude on the law and proper norms.

With Olmert, this is a familiar method: He defamed accountant general Yaron Zelekha and caused his resignation, and he tried to destroy the status of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, leading him to lower his profile. Not that the prime minister had no basis for his conduct: Personality flaws of these two officials provided Olmert with ammunition to attack their treatment of him, and he did so brutally and like a neighborhood bully. In his belligerency, Olmert forgot that he is everyone's prime minister, and that Zelekha and Lindenstrauss are also viewed, to some degree, as his subordinates.

Now he is trying to trample Menachem Mazuz, Moshe Lador, Yohanan Danino, Shlomi Ayalon and their staffs. Not that there is no basis for his accusations: Here a tactical mistake by the State Prosecutor's Office, there mistaken timing by the National Fraud Unit, which he attacks with a mixture of violence and whining, aimed at blurring the difference between primary and secondary matters, and causing him to forget his ultimate responsibility for ensuring the rule of law.

Just as everyone knows why a bride walks under the marriage canopy, everyone knows why Katsav was removed from the President's Residence and why Olmert's term is coming to an end. The bride is rushed to the marriage ceremony because it isn't proper for an unmarried woman to walk around town looking visibly pregnant (according to the old-fashioned way of thinking), and Katsav was forced to return to Kiryat Malakhi because it is not proper for the president to bear on his forehead the scarlet letter of a serial sexual harasser.

Olmert will also leave public life because a properly run country cannot tolerate a situation in which its prime minister is a man who exploited his public status in such a blatant and unscrupulous manner (before being elected to his current position) in order to accumulate infuriating benefits for himself. Although Katsav might escape the law's terror by the skin of his teeth, and although Olmert might be saved at the last moment from a grave charge sheet, their disgrace has been revealed, and even if it is impossible to translate it into meticulous legal language, we cannot continue to overlook it, according to the code of proper public behavior.

Katsav tried to conceal his contemptible behavior using a stormy television appearance, and Olmert is trying to blind the public using press briefings. The result is identical: Maligning the image of the authorities responsible for law enforcement, and undermining their reliability. Nor do the two understand that there is a direct connection between their coarse attacks on the legal system and the lawlessness practiced by settlers in the territories, the abandon with which the criminal underworld conducts its wars within a peaceful population and the violent climate that is enveloping the country.

Like Katsav a year and a half ago, Olmert is using images such as "kangaroo court" and "witch-hunting campaign" to describe the attitude of the police and prosecutor's office toward him. Like Katsav, he is turning to "the court of public opinion" to defend himself because the public seems to have already made up its mind. The two are forgetting that one has to come to the court with clean hands.