Sunday, May 04, 2008

Olmert Over?

Back in January of 2006, when Ariel Sharon had his stroke and Barack Obama was visiting the Holy Land, I also happened to be here in Tel Aviv for an academic conference. Within days of the emergence of Ehud Olmert as the fill-in for Sharon, in my first blog entry on Olmert, I informed readers of this blog that "there is a hint of corruption" surrounding him and his family. Later, during the election campaign, I went into further details concerning allegations of Olmert's corruption. After Olmert was elected in his own right (though by a much smaller magin than the polls had predicted) he promised to turn Israel into a country -- let me quote the Hebrew -- she-keyf li-chyot bah -- "where it would be a joy to live in." Then on the morning of July 12, Olmert decided in something under 3 hours to launch a war into southern Lebanon against Hizbollah, with disastrous results for Israel and Lebanon (but not for Hizbollah). Two commission reports later, 3 criminal investigations later, and this "seasoned politician" has survived everything that has been thrown at him. He even survived watching his poll numbers tank to single digit approval (even George W. Bush is not that unpopular). He has since orchestrated a slow and steady comeback to nearly a 20% positive approval rating (still below Dubya's benchmark historic low). Predicted to be down for the count more than once these past two years (today marks the 2 year anniversay of Olmert's elected government), Olmert has proven to be the winner of Hisardut -- "Survivor."

And now it is the week of Israel's 60th anniversary, a week in which Olmert will play host to his buddy George Bush here on home court, and oversee an extravagant and opulent soiree (though sadly and without explanation, Barbara Streisand cancelled out from her scheduled visit, and her promised rendition of Avinu Malkeinu). A week of celebration and national clucking and long-winded speeches. This month of May was supposed to be a good month for Olmert. A time to kick back with a good cigar and enjoy the fireworks.

But then Friday the Israeli police suddenly descended upon Olmert's official residence with very little warning to interrogate him, for the fourth time in 2 years, about a new financial/political scandal. There are rumors flying as to what this new scandal might be -- the media is being gagged by the courts from publishing any details -- but it seems to be a financial bribe from a few years back, and this fourth rumor of financial irregularity may very well be the scandal to break the political culture's lethargy, and bring this pathetic caricature of a "seasoned politician" to his proper and early conclusion. The morning papers are all headlining the rumored corruption charge as "very serious," in fact the most serious and substantive of all the charges that have swirled around his head these past few years. There is open discussion of the possibility that these new charges or so corrosive that Olmert maight have to step down. Wishful thinking? Israeli media frenzy? (Let's not forget that "Israeli Newspapers" still appear on Steven Colbert's "On Notice" board.)

And May was supposed to have been a fun month...

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