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.