On the eve of his acquittal of most corruption charges against him, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he was thinking of seeking his old job and that political newcomer Yair Lapid would join him. [...]
Olmert reportedly told associates, “I’ll return to political life and run for prime minister. I’m the only politician who can run as a candidate for the center bloc. There’s no one else there – neither Shaul Mofaz nor Yair Lapid nor Shelly Yacimovich [can do it].”
Olmert was asked what he thought his good friend Lapid would do, after the former TV personality formed the party Yesh Atid with the intention of heading it in the next elections. “Yair will come with me,” Olmert reportedly told more than one person in the past week.
No surprise that Olmert retains his political ambitions. It certainly wouldn’t be the most surprising comeback were he to be successful. Here are somethings to consider, though.
First, Israelis aren’t so keen on him. The same Haaretz article says that as many as 70% of Israelis don’t support him coming back. But, I think it would be fair to say that change if Bibi’s leadership deteriorates, or if Olmert gets on the stump. Second, he has form as someone who can negotiate with Palestinians. Israelis know what they get with Bibi on the Palestinian issue, but they also know what they get with Olmert: someone who’s willing to make a deal, and someone with whom the Palestinians will be prepared to make a deal.
Third, let’s assume for the moment that he’s cleared in a similar way, or only found guilty for relatively less serious offences. If that’s the case, and he’s fully exonerated, there’s no reason it won’t be okay to come back. Ariel Sharon, after all, came back from much worse.
But finally, one thing is clear to me. There’s quite a powerful bloc that is really gunning for Olmert to make a comeback. I figure if they make enough noise, mostly likely behind the scenes, it might just spook Bibi enough to launch him into action. I’ve said it here several times already — Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to be a hero. If he thinks he can make peace he’ll give it one shot and see. If he does, he’ll be immortalised. And that’s what he wants. If Olmert, Lapid or others begin making headway, perhaps that will be his catalyst.