If Ariel Sharon was the crusty, stiff toast, Olmert is the oily mayo of Israeli politics. Unlike all his predecessors in the seat of power, his claim to fame in Israel lies in being placed in Israel’s Knesset, a list-based, representative parliment, at the tender age of 28 in 1973. Too young to have street creds in Israel’s War of Independence (he was born in 1945), he cut his teeth in the Israeli army so unobtrusively it doesn’t register. Between wars and demobed, he got his law degree and played politics to be placed sufficiently high on a party list that, in the elctions that brought in the incompetent leadership that sealed the fate of Israel and its entry into the Yom Kippur War in October, 1973.
Like a leech, he stuck it out, taking a break from national government, and adding to his patronage powers, by becoming mayor of Jerusalem after the departure of much beloved, and far more competent, Teddy Kollek. He was primarily responsible for the tilting of the delicate balance of powers between Jews and gentiles, and between Jewish secularists and the religious sects and groups.
He’s consistently voted against withdrawal from lands, until he was given Netanyahu’s Finance Ministry after the latter resigned to set himself up to challenge Sharon. He is under current criminal investigation for bribe-taking and lining his pockets, and defected from the Likud party, where he had invested his entire political career, to follow fellow suspect, Sharon, to the Kadima kleptocratic machine.
And now, he is the man of State. I’m starting to regret Sharon’s probable departure from politics.