What Olmert Has to Say for Himself

With his eyes closed, he said, he relied on relatives and acquaintances, and they led him astray. He has no problem taking responsibility for himself, as long as he's allowed to let others take the blame.

I believe what former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at his corruption trial: "I am fighting for my life." That comes from the heart, and only a heart of stone could refuse to hear it. This isn't the first time in Olmert's life that he's fighting for it. He has been on the verge of a downfall before, and arisen. There is no one else in Israel whose chest is more decorated than his with badges of acquittal.

Even the bank overdraft is nothing new. Olmert has always had a hard time making it through the month, and has needed to supplement his income - that's why he needed the help of an interest-free "loan" of $50,000. It's pretty much the life of a hardscrabble Israeli family with lots of kids. Surely the judges will take the special situation into account. There are precedents in which the law wasn't applied because of the situation.

At one point it seemed that the situation had improved. The family managed to acquire some property and even accumulate some valuables. But it was an improvement that turned out to be for the worse. Because of all the pressure and hard work, the father of the family once again got into trouble, over fraudulent receipts. Three of his alleged embezzling partners were convicted; he was the only one to get off with a reprimand. The court believed his argument that he hadn't noticed, and I believe it too. Over and over again he has escaped by the skin of his teeth, but he didn't waste precious time saving his thick skin. Happy is the man who doesn't sit still for a single day, and who is successful at everything he does.

Since he wanted to put some distance between himself and his troubles at home, he started traveling around the world - about 300 trips, by his count. But even in the heavens and in distant cities he found no rest; by his account, he was suffering. And thus did he always return from his suffering and await the next takeoff, as though the curse of the wandering Jew had fallen on him. What more do you want from him? That he should check his PDA to find out who paid and how? What nonsense. Is there no limit to irritating provinciality?

The state prosecutor, state comptroller, police chief and the press - have not they crossed that line? Of all the persecuted in this country where such persecutions are commonplace - of figures like Moshe Katsav, as the outsider; Avigdor Lieberman, as the Russian immigrant; Aryeh Deri and Shlomo Benizri, as both religious and Mizrahi; Abraham Hirchson, as just a fat Ashkenazi guy; Haim Ramon, as someone who steps on other people's toes - no one has been persecuted like Olmert has. He was standing at the threshold of peace when they tripped everything up. As one of the oppressed, who rakes in NIS 2 million a month, said recently, "Businesspeople are a persecuted minority in Israel." Get your handkerchiefs ready.

I believe Olmert when he says he wasn't involved in all that minor bookkeeping - how much it cost, how much it didn't cost. As someone who walked with the great and did great things, he didn't break down his public credit into small change, or his life into days of inconsequence. And if there's some double or triple bookkeeping that comes to light here and there, it's the first time he's seeing it. "I was really surprised," he said in his testimony.

With his eyes closed, he said, he relied on relatives and acquaintances, and they led him astray; there is that possibility. He has no problem taking responsibility for himself, as long as he's allowed to let others take the blame.

But those "others" are never guilty. They are conducting themselves in accordance with the spirit of the boss, whose lifestyle they are familiar with and from whom they learn to see and understand. Olmert was supposed to serve as a role model, offering a blueprint - whether sketched with one of the expensive fountain pens he collects or a simple ballpoint - of what is permissible and what is prohibited. Police searched for the blueprint at his home and in his office, but as of press time they have yet to find one.