Olmert and His Almost’ Stories

Reading Former Prime Minsiter Ehud Olmert's memoirs indicates that he will not be remembered for the 'almosts' of his career but rather for the envelopes that he snatched and wrapped up.

I was not planning to try to wade through the waters of Ehud Olmert’s memoirs that swept across the pages of the Hebrew daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, over the weekend. Stories about “almost” − how we were just about to touch, how we would have arrived there in another second − tend to bore me. But as I was paging through, I came across a picture of myself − and I was surprised. What connection do I have with the stories of Grandpa Ehud, why did I get the honor?

I worked hard and found the reason. Dozens of prosecutors have condemned him for his rashness, his hedonism and his corruption. Even personal friends who had tried to understand him from close up had washed their hands of him and spat into the hand that fed them.

Of all of these, Olmert chose none other than Haaretz and me. This newspaper “turned the war against me into its prime mission,” he wrote. He got nothing but deep frustration from this. Alongside restrained compliments − “Yossi is not untalented” − he attributed jealousy to me. Where is he and where am I?

Both of us began as the youngest of Knesset members − one became prime minister and the other “is sitting at home, growing old before his time, with a heart filled with bitterness.” All of this is true except for the remark about being aged, since it is natural that old age should come upon our heads, both his and mine, and wreck our beautiful hairdos.

“Sitting at home” − that is a fact. But home is man’s best friend. It leaps onto me with joy every time I open the front door. In my house I feel at home − blessed are those who dwell in your house − and it is hard for me to assess how I would have felt had I bought and lived in three houses.

“His heart is filled with bitterness” − that too is a fact. How is it possible not to be a little bitter when you think about the poor country that has been held captive already for 15 years in long and misguided hands, which do not always know how to differentiate between one pocket and another, one cash register and another: Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Olmert, who raised covetousness to new heights and made it a real art. If Yoav Galant cannot be chief of staff, how can Olmert have been prime minister, merely because Sharon saw in him a son who would follow in his footsteps? Gilad, Omri, Yoav and Ehud − they were all his sons.

It was not so much that I had reservations about the policies of the author of the memoirs as that I was revolted by his greed. In other countries, people go out into the streets to protest about behavior of that type. He will not be remembered for the “almosts” of his career but rather for the envelopes that he snatched and wrapped up. In my heart of hearts, I wonder − and you too are permitted to join in: Who should be jealous of whom? Which of the two would you like to be in the place of his colleague?

Olmert wandered around for 35 years until he opened his eyes and saw the light. The supporter of the Greater Land of Israel and even more so, of a united Jerusalem, started some time ago to march along a different path and at long last divided Jerusalem on paper. “I could no longer continue to deceive myself,” he wrote.

So he did not deceive himself − that’s okay with me. It’s not the only lie with which he has to live. But he cheated everyone and that is how he became prime minister. I tried not to deceive anyone and to have no regrets, even if I showed less support for a united Jerusalem. I forced myself to retire because my soul could no longer tolerate those who cheated and those who chose to follow them when they knew they were not being honest. Even Olmert, who has some regrets and feelings of bitterness, admits somewhat: “I cannot detract from the courage with which Yossi conducted his struggles, and a long time before he made his not negligible contribution to the discourse on the Palestinian issue.”
But my ego trips me up, it discerns the modesty of an expert. Let us be judged: What is preferable, an inflated ego or an inflated pocket?
Now I am sitting at home, even though sometimes I go out. But the really interesting question is something different − not where Sarid is sitting but where Olmert will sit.