Would Ehud Olmert have been a little comforted, during his last journey home today from the Prime Minister’s Office, if he realized and kept in mind that none of Israel’s prime ministers over the years ever completed their term in office happy and overjoyed? All of them, with no exception, either suffered a stinging defeat in the elections, or were dismissed from their senor post, or suffered depression, or died while in office, or were murdered. The State of Israel was never good to those who led it. It very much loved to humiliate and trample some of them.
Look at this list: David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett, Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzchak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Shamir, Shimon Peres, Bibi Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Olmert – did any of them go home with a satisfied smile on their face?
Ehud Olmert went home on Monday. For more than 40 years he served in different roles in the political establishment, and just like any other Israeli politician he accumulated adoring fans and bitter rivals. All of them bid him farewell today, either with a painful sigh or with cries of joy. In this nation, which shifts from the mad extremes of festivals to catastrophes, there is no middle ground: Either they are crazy about you, or they drive you crazy.
This is apparently not the time or place to assess Ehud Olmert’s capabilities as a prime minister, statesman, or even as a politician.
Media outlets this week will be replete with eulogies for him, written while he is still alive. In my view, as a person who never required his direct services yet saw him at work, he was the first prime minister in Israel’s history who was more “one of us” than anyone else. A part of us. A prime minister whose head is not up above in the skies, and whose feet are firmly planted on the ground.
As opposed to his predecessors, he arrived at the office in Yerushalayim’s 3 Kaplan Street without the glory of a brigade commander in the Palmach, or of the commander of the Irgun or Stern Gang, or of a legend from the elite Sayeret Matkal reconnaissance unit.
He was a pleasant person to spend time with, and he still has numerous friends. Some of them were even detrimental to him in his latest posts and knocked him to the ground, yet we must note that he enthusiastically helped them out, even beyond the proper measure.With the passage of time, he became more arrogant. The thing is, even his arrogance was nice sometimes. Over the years, he fell in love with the “good life” and with a hedonistic lifestyle, which also led to his downfall and to meetings with police investigators.
So that’s it, Olmert went home on Monday with a sour taste in his mouth and a sense of missing out. Just like any other politician he dreamed of reaching far, and he reached as far as possible and well beyond his dreams. Some will say that he went too far, and for that he may end up paying the price.
This is neither the time nor the place to mention sins, injustices, and failures. Some will argue that books can be written about the outgoing prime minister’s dreadful conduct. Ok, but why do it today? Ehud Olmert completed his term in office as Israel’s prime minister yestertoday. This is the time to say: Thank you (and to his wife Aliza too.)