Run, Olmert, Run

If ex-PM Ehud Olmert chooses to confront Netanyahu in the upcoming elections, he will have demonstrated that, confronted once more with a conflict of interest, he chose the national interest – to attain the two-state salvation for Israel.

David Landau
David Landau
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David Landau
David Landau

The worst thing that could happen to Ehud Olmert – if he chooses to run against Netanyahu in the Israeli general elections that have just been announced – the most demeaning, the cruelest, is that the High Court disqualifies him, before or after the election, amid outpourings of joy from the righteous hypocrisy crowd.

That would be hard to bear.

But not nearly as hard as some of the shames and disgraces he has already borne – and most especially the heartbreaking, tragic shame of being hounded from office over a pre-indictment that resulted in an acquittal.

And indeed the shame – in the other sense of the word – of being convicted of breach of trust arising out of conflicts of interest and being sentenced to a suspended jail term.

The Rabbis teach that the highest form of repentance, tshuva, is being confronted again with precisely the same set of circumstances that brought on the sin – and resisting this time around.

Ehud Olmert, and Aliza and their children, are now confronted with the most momentous, most tempting conflict of interest imaginable.

Their interest, his personal interest, is to sit out this election on the comfortable, anguish-free sidelines. To watch Bibi romp home effectively unchallenged; to watch the already dim and waning prospect of the two-state solution fade further into oblivion as another Netanyahu coalition begins its four-year stint.

No more shame and disgrace for Olmert in that scenario; just some rueful hand-wringing from peaceniks about how close he and Abbas were in 2008, and how close they might have come again.

Some time in that bleak future, perhaps, the desperate residue of the 'peace camp' may yet come begging to Olmert to cast his personal comfort aside. That would be a succulent vindication.

But it may be too late by then.

And Ehud Olmert will go down in Jewish history as the man who failed to attain the two-state salvation for his nation – twice.

It was Ehud Olmert, as prime minister, who had the guts to say (in Washington, to Aluf Benn and me) that if there is no two-state deal, and soon, there will be no State of Israel. That prediction has since been moving steadily, inexorably, towards realization.

Olmert bears part of the blame: as prime minister, he allowed Sharon's defeat of the settlers to seep through his fingers, crumpling before them after Amona and never even trying to roll up more outposts and settlements on the West Bank.

If he runs now, he will expiate that guilt, too.

But above all, he will give hope, give voice to all of us who know – as he knows, deep in his soul – that the 'national camp' is frittering away our Zionist sovereignty, irredeemably.

If he is disqualified, one of the others will pick up the baton. Maybe, as the polls indicate (public opinion means nothing, of course, to the righteous hypocrisy crowd), he or she will lack the cogent charisma and experience that Olmert would bring to the fight against Netanyahu.

But Olmert will have demonstrated, to his supporters and his traducers alike, that confronted once more with a conflict of interest, he chose the national interest.

Ehud Olmert at the Jerusalem Distrcit Court, Sept. 5, 2012.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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