The Bottom Line / Olmert Will Get Out of It This Time, Too

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not a beacon of light when it comes to public ethics. His past is rife with investigations, suspicions and legal complications - which may not have led to any convictions yet, but have certainly created an image for him as a slippery politician who may not always be squeaky clean.

Until now, Olmert has managed to escape unharmed from the long list of scandals in which he was involved, and even now, you can bet that he will somehow manage to wriggle out of the Bank Leumi privatization affair, too.

The evidence that the State Prosecutor's Office has obtained relating to the Leumi sale has never been revealed to the public, but there are a number of basic facts about the sale that can shed a little light on the matter - and also show that State Prosecutor Eran Shendar has taken on a real challenge in this affair.

The privatization of Leumi differed from the sale of any other state-owned company.

It was a complex and involved process, in which the bidders were required to strip themselves naked, to reveal their businesses and assets and to present documents from their banks attesting to their financial stability.

They had to walk the entire Via Dolorosa before receiving the Bank of Israel's permission to participate in the tender. Not everyone can by a bank in Israel - and that is a good thing.

However, the central bank's high level of involvement in the process of examining the candidates made it difficult from the start for any individual to influence the sale.

Even with regard to the specific intervention alleged against Olmert - who is suspected of requesting changes in the privatization mechanism according to detailed requests from his billionaire friends, Frank Lowy and Daniel Abraham - it will be difficult to prove that there were criminal acts involved.

After all, if one bidder was given improved terms, then they must have benefited all the bidders. The fact that neither Lowy nor Abrams ultimately participated in the tender may also aid Olmert in once again avoiding an indictment.

However, none of these explanations can hide the fact that the combination of money and power in Israel is corrosive and even fatal - and it sets an agenda for prime ministers and other senior politicians that contains far too many police investigations. And for Olmert, already well-known for his love of businessmen and the wealthy, the danger is even greater.

Therefore, maybe it is time to recommend that Olmert adopt the approach of retired Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, who asked a simple question in an interview with TheMarker: "If a person has wealth and wants to invest it in Israel, why should he have to meet with the prime minister? Evidently, because he wants favors."

According to Dorner, "investments are not intimate affairs. We have an Investment Center for those purposes. Whoever wants to invest - invests."

"But when a lawyer says that his client wants to meet immediately with the prime minister, that is corruption. It may be soft corruption, but even that seems horrible to me," explained Dorner.

It is naive to expect politicians to adopt this perspective. But whoever does so can at least be assured that he will be able to concentrate on his role as a public servant, without having to waste his time on police investigations or feverish consultations with lawyers, public relations hacks and advisors on how to extricate himself from the situation.