It was only a few weeks ago that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert assuaged his rivals' fears, insisting that he was not planning to re-enter politics. It was just to get them to let their guard down. The suspicious among us were not surprised when he announced that he was considering throwing his hat in the ring when the early elections were called this week. This was a trial balloon with practical intentions.
In any other enlightened nation, such an announcement would have been met with gales of derisive laughter, or with sharp dismissive gestures. It would be inconceivable. But not in the political reality of Israel in 2012, where parts of the business sector, along with representatives from the media, seek to exonerate a man who was convicted of four counts of breach of trust, rather than banning him from the political arena for a long time.
It took some time, but Olmert's plans ran up not only against verbal criticism but also against concrete measures. MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) actually approached the chairman of the elections committee, Judge Eliyakim Rubinstein, asking him to apply moral turpitude guidelines to the convicted criminal. She cited the crimes of which Olmert was convicted and the wording of his tame verdict (even though ultimately the verdict went his way) as well as the judges' comments on the clauses of which he was acquitted (which the prosecution is set to appeal to the Supreme Court). What we need is a decisive ruling, not just talk.
Arye Avneri, the director of Ometz (an NGO battling corruption), chose to organize, and established a group called "Citizens Blocking Olmert." Meanwhile, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel also formulated a list of steps aimed at bolstering the state prosecution, which is experiencing complications in submitting the appeal against Olmert and is overthinking things to the point where it might miss the deadline.
Haim Ramon, a close associate of Olmert's, told Army Radio on Wednesday that he was in talks with Olmert and former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni over the coming elections. It is not clear where these talks will lead. It stands to reason that Ramon seeks to bring the two together under one political roof, presumably with one of the existing parties currently vying for Knesset seats.
But Livni must know this: Even Kadima's most bitter rivals always distinguished her from her sinning party members. They said time and time again that she had kept her hands clean. This will no longer be the case if she helps Olmert get back into the ring, or if he cowers under her wing, or she under his.
The move to bring back Olmert is not just spin, as they say. It has practical implications. Ramon, together with certain media professionals and certain prominent businesspeople, hopes that Olmert will be able to garner enough of a majority in the next Knesset to influence legislation. This kind of majority would allow him to head the government despite the indictments against him and his proven conviction. His efforts to reintegrate into public life aim to pressure the state prosecution not to appeal his bizarre acquittal in the Talansky cash envelopes case, and perhaps even to have his Holyland bribery charges thrown out.
The very discussion surrounding the possibility that Olmert will return to politics is embarrassing and shameful for Israel. Someone needs to put an end to this ghoulish dance that Olmert and his cronies are performing for the adoring media.