With a Little Help From His Friends

Former PM Ehud Olmert apparently likes to help friends and they, as it turns out, like to help him.

According to the ruling in the corruption trial of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, he cannot be considered to have had criminal intentions because he lacked the "emotional basis" that would prove that he really did know that the crimes were being committed on his behalf, whereas his office manager Shula Zaken does have that "emotional basis." That is why, although she herself did not benefit from a single mile of free flights abroad, she is the only one who bears responsibility for a crime from which she derived no benefit.

It seems that that same "emotional basis" that is the "criminal particle" that was discovered in the laboratories of the Jerusalem District Court has a greater tendency to dwell in those with less power, who have less successful lawyers. Why did the judges discover the existence of the emotional basis in Zaken of all people? Not because she's a woman, but because she refused to testify and save her skin, and by so doing to endanger Olmert, to whom she is devoted body and soul, and for whom she is willing to lie down on the barricades, just as Omri Sharon did for his father, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Olmert is not Zaken's father, but he plays an equally important role - father, and brother, friend and confidant. As in the song "Stand By Your Man," Zaken gives him all her love and isn't angry at him, because "after all, he's only a man." He is the Jewish prince whose wishes she fulfills before he even asks, and all she wants is to make him and his family happy.

What does it say about Olmert that there's a woman who is willing to engage in such self-sacrifice for his sake? It may be that because of one friend he was acquitted in the Rishon Tours affair, and because of another friend, Uri Messer, he was convicted of breach of trust. There is an inverse relationship between the two cases, because in the second instance Olmert was actually the one who did not receive any benefit.

Olmert apparently likes to help friends and they, as it turns out, like to help him. It may be possible to learn something about him by surveying the friends who rushed to the cameras on the day of the court decision. A partial list: journalist Dan Margalit, soccer team manager Avram Grant, MK (and former finance minister ) Roni Bar-On, former MK Haim Ramon, Yitzhak and Eti Livni, also a former MK, and journalist Amnon Dankner.

On the one hand, it's heartwarming to see the face of Margalit, which turned black as the bottom of a pot a couple of years ago when he realized he may have erred in judging the way the wind was blowing and so, in an attack of righteousness, betrayed his longstanding friendship with Olmert. That's the same Olmert whom he used to interview and write op-eds about - with total objectivity, of course - when the former PM was still considered a winner. On the other hand, both Olmert and Grant have a similar talent for keeping pet journalists.

The absence of an "emotional basis" is common in the Olmert, Bar-On and Ramon affairs. (Bar-On withdrew his bid for attorney general under a cloud of suspicions and Ramon resigned from the Knesset when convicted of indecent assault. ) Yitzhak Livni was a regular at the table around which Margalit, Dankner and the late Yosef (Tommy ) Lapid used to sit every Friday. Those three became close friends with Olmert when he was mayor of Jerusalem, a period in which they anchored the popular political talk show "Popolitika."

What does it say about Olmert that he has a friend like Dankner, who on the day of the verdict managed to return to the spotlight, declaring at the entrance of the court that the state prosecutor "should commit suicide"? Did Dankner mean to imply that had his good friend Olmert been convicted of all the crimes attributed to him then he, Olmert, should have committed suicide?

Dankner himself has experienced periods of unpopularity, like after the publication of his tell-all book about his deceased friend, the writer Dahn Ben Amotz, and during Dankner's tenure as editor of the daily Maariv when he sent many fine journalists packing in a humiliating way. Doesn't Dankner think that there are things that a person should not recommend unless he is willing to serve as a role model and do the same?