Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wasn't deposed over the Talansky affair (in which he was suspected of illegally receiving unreported donations from American supporter Morris Talansky). Yes, it was Talansky's early testimony that prompted Defense Minister Ehud Barak to demand Olmert's resignation, but the corruption scandals that he was mixed up in were just an excuse. The people grew tired of Olmert much earlier. Barak would not have threatened a prime minister who had the public's support. A prime minister who, as polls throughout his three-year term projected, could not win more than eight Knesset seats, and who had zero credit with the public, could not remain in power.
Olmert has some very positive character traits, including the ability to express warmth and a rare loyalty. It is thanks to these traits that Olmert has the support of many friends — politicians and powerful public figures. But these qualities do not a leader make. The people were familiar with Olmert's personality, and still wanted someone to show him the door.
His loyalists and cronies are trying to create the impression that Olmert's acquittals will pave his way back to the top. This is a tall tale. It was merely a tragic and incredible chain of events that, in the first place, catapulted Olmert from the 29th spot on the Likud Knesset list to acting prime minister.
The judges' decision on Tuesday had absolutely no effect on the contempt the public feels for the man who reigned as one of Israel's weakest prime ministers. It was this contempt that ultimately got him thrown out of office. He did step down before the official end of his term, but the public felt that he should have stepped down much earlier. Long before anyone even knew who Talansky was.
Long before Talansky, Olmert was one of the most reviled prime ministers in Israel's history, if not the most reviled. He won this status in record time — through the violent evacuation of Amona, the delusional "convergence plan" (a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank), and culminating in the dangerous and failed handling of the Second Lebanon War. He himself admitted to being an unpopular prime minister. But never once did the thought occur to him to vacate his seat. In conniving ways, with the help of cynical politicians and seasoned loyalists in the media, Olmert dodged bullet after bullet. Until Talansky, that is.
Olmert's real corruption cases aren't the double-billing of airline tickets or Investment Center cronyism. Not even the Holyland real estate affair. Olmert's true corruption is the fact that he didn't care about the public — not after the failed war he launched, not after the failed offensive in Gaza and not after the irresponsible negotiations he held with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. When, after three years of his rule, he showed us all some mercy and resigned, it seemed that one question continued to reverberate in space: What the hell was that?