Thursday, May 29, 2008

Toppling a Prime Minister

The fumbling leadership during the war in Lebanon didn't topple Olmert, but it seems the Talanski case has, or is about to. Not one of our finest moments, if you ask me.

Criminal investigations have become, unfortunately, a standard feature in the lives of many of our politicians. Indictments are less common, which says something about the ease of launching the investigations, or the canniness of the politicians in covering their traces. Or both. Progressing from investigation to indictment is significant, because that's the moment a minister (if the politician is a minister) must vacate his position. Convictions are rather rare. Olmert himself was tried once, while he was the Mayor of Jerusalem, and he was cleared.

Indicting a prime minister has never happened, either for lack of blame, or perhaps for lack of prosecutor's guts: The resignation of a prime minister means the resignation of the entire government, followed by political turmoil and the effective end of the prime minister's career; for practical purposes, indicting a prime minister is like convicting him, and so far no prosecutor has dared, though in the cases of Netanyahu and Sharon the media thought it was close.

What happened this time, however, was weird. By all accounts the prosecution doesn't yet have a good enough case for an indictment. They may yet get there, and for all we know Olmert may someday be convicted. Or not. That's what trails are for, in courts, with judges, and with a presumption of innocence until conviction. However, they convinced the court that Talanski, apparently their main witness, had to give his testimony NOW, immediately, before he goes back to where he lives in far-away New York. Can't wait for an indictment to be drawn up, nor for Olmert's lawyers to prepare a line of defense, or even a line of cross examination. Hurry hurry hurry!

The result was that Talanski gave his version, the whole country was shocked, and there's now no need for a trial because Olmert has been convicted in the court of public opinion. To make matters weirder, Talanski is coming back in two months, when Olmert's lawyers will cross examine him as part of a trial that may never happen, because who knows if an indictment will ever be written, and anyway the suspect will have been punished already.

Weird. And not anything we need to be proud of, no matter how you look at it.


Gary S. said...


The tone of your post conveys a certain misplaced sympathy to Olmert, as in:

... the suspect will have been punished already.

I say 'misplaced' because unlike regular citizens who have the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, people in positions of power, especially elected or appointed public officials must be held to a higher standard. Public office is not a right -- it's a privilege, and losing such a job is not a punishment.

I'm much more worried by the phenomenon that Olmert didn't lose his job following the 2006 fiasco in Lebanon, or because of his govt's inability to provide safety and security for the people of Sderot and Ashkelon.

We are at the point where, with globalization and new media, politics have become more complicated -- more professional, if you will. Yet, the only disqualifying factor for Israeli politicians remains their personal morality and/or behavior (which, I agree, are extremely important.) No one wishes to penalize them for utter incompetence, thereby enshrining mediocrity and failure over excellence and meritocracy.

That's an OK recipe for Greece or Portugal who don't face existential threats, but not for Israel.

Anonymous said...


There's a weakness in the system. Too many governments in Israel "fall." Why is that? Why can't voters vote and then have those votes counted?

Olmert's "crimes?" No different than any other politician's! Why? Because every single politician has to be a funds raiser.

I figured this out with Ronald Reagan's story. When he set his sights on the republican nomination, he had to decide (in 1776), if he'd remain IN the GOP. Or if he would leave.

He stayed. And, he traveled, by criss-crossing America, into what is now called "THE GRASS ROOTS." Here? People gave money!

Just as Talansky described. A candidate would be invited into someone's living room. And, there the candidate would meet others. This formed a group of people willing to work in the polical byways. And, for Reagan, it changed the "country club." Did he do it all for free? You're kidding, me, right?

That an American Jew can go to Israel, and tell a story about "cash" ... that has yet to be proven true. But all you see is the media. In high dudgeon. Is it possible that the media does this to prove they're in control of what people end up with for government heads?

Why aren't Israelis up in arms?

Heck, Morris Talansky is richer than most of them. He's the one with the apartment in Jerusalem that goes un-used. Except when he visits the country.

Seems to me it's just wrong.

In America, there's a strong wall that separates Church fro State. Yet, Talansky was free to go to Israel. Pal out with his friends in the LIkud. Where Bibi still hopes he can pull down Olmert's government.

Well, at least it's better than shooting Rabin.

Anonymous said...


You know, it should not be forgotten that basically the media is a dying "dinosaur" of a business. Since they can't sell the crap they produce. And, customers evaporate.

While a politician only has himself. In America, this means SPEAKING FEES. Where in Israel this is illegal? How come?

Seems to me if people are willing to pay a price to see you, then your going there makes sense.

Most people can't sell themselves; and, it's possible, alas, in Israel, that there's a defect to DENY profits to people who can earn them. A smelly vision of Marx if ever there was one.

As to how politicians deal with the slime ... Because being a politician means you and your family are exposed to slime ... Then go ahead. You decide if Ehud Barak, today, saying "he was going to toughen Kadima's spine," is something with "real world" possibilities?

Meanwhile, both Ehud Barak and Livni seem to be announcing "they have the votes." And, yes. I've heard boasts before. But I no longer take what newspapers say as fact.

And, if I remember correctly, when Ronald Reagan left office, the Japanese government gave him a million dollars! TO SPEAK!

Oh, yeah. Bibi is connected to the American market. So, this stuff against Olmert is trumped up.

If he survives this? GOOD!

Just like Bill Clinton, where Monica Lewinsky made him more famous. And, made Ken Starr out to be a jerk. Can you put a price on that?