Who knows how this latest potential scandal with Olmert will play out…
In spite of the fact that police are arguing that the investigation and its legal implications takes precedence over the public’s right to know, word is that by tomorrow the gag will be at least partially lifted. Leaks have taken place that suggest unofficially that this is a new case of bribery — with huge sums of money and an American businessman involved. We’ll see…
Officials involved say the evidence garnered so far is "reliable" and that the nature of the findings, when released, will "shock the nation."
Olmert is going to be questioned several more times. Apparently because of his responsibilities as prime minister, any one session of questioning can last just so long. At least according to one knowledgeable source, there is a specific progression to the questioning, designed to avoid exposing the direction in which the investigators hope to go.
Questions have been raised as to why this investigation happened so precipitously, and there have been too many different answers I’ve encountered to explain them all. One that makes potential sense is the need to act because there had been public exposure: There seems to be some sense of rush to avoid a chance for different persons involved to collaborate on getting their stories straight or to otherwise obscure evidence.
It falls to Attorney General Mazuz to make the decision regarding indictment. If he proceeds with that, then Olmert must step down — this is according to the precedent of court decisions and not law. And, according to what I’ve just read, the ministers of Olmert’s gov’t would have to resign with him.
The most important question in my mind is what happens next if Olmert is gone, and the answers to that are not yet clear.
While there is talk of Livni taking over for an interim, this is not necessarily the scenario that will take place (other than for some brief transitional period). It would most definitely not be a positive.
Briefly now (with more to follow in short order, hopefully): There is the possibility of a vote of no-confidence, with the Knesset disbanding. Or of the current coalition imploding because others within the coalition decide it’s time to leave. (This may refer to Labor or to members of Kadima.) There may be a reshuffling of power without an election — which would require the president to call upon the head of a faction to try to form a new coalition — or an election might be called. Were Kadima to retain control, there would, as I understand it, be a primary to determine who heads the party.
While we all need a dollop of hope now and then , and this is what I offered yesterday, I realize that it can also be a dangerous thing, because of the potential for great disappointment.
Earlier today the news was that negotiations with the Palestinians would likely be tabled until after the legal issues surrounding Olmert were resolved, because neither Olmert nor Livni was able to concentrate on this now.
But since that news, there has been a meeting between Olmert and Abbas. A picture of a smiling Olmert and Abbas accompanied by a report that this was the most serious meeting they’ve had yet. The subject was borders and allegedly great progress was made.
After my talk yesterday about the possibility of settlement blocs being retained and Abbas’s depression…
What would it take to make Abbas smile with regard to this? What has Olmert agreed to?
Of course Rice’s presence is likely a factor in this. But there is something else that also occurs to me. Until now, it was clear that Olmert was always looking over his shoulder at his coalition with regard to what he agreed to (at least publicly) with Abbas. If he lost his coalition (notably via Shas) then he would shorten his term of office and cut himself off from power and perks.
But now, if he knows in his heart of hearts that he is likely to be indicted, then he may have a "damn it all" attitude — a very dangerous feeling that he might as well agree to the maximum without regard for coalition partners’ concerns.
In line with this, and extremely worrisome, is a report on TV tonight that Rice is pushing for an announcement on borders before Bush comes next week. What is more, she is interested in having Olmert proceed as quickly as possible before the criminal investigation takes him out of play.
Also extremely worrisome is a report from Arutz Sheva regarding an agreement by Barak to remove three checkpoints at the behest of Rice:
Notable here is the checkpoint between the PA city of Ramallah and Beit El, home to 7,000 Jews. The IDF objected strenuously to this, as it will permit unhindered Palestinian traffic adjacent to Jewish homes in Beit El.
"The IDF officials reminded Barak, to no avail, that shots were fired at Beit El in the past from this highway. They also told him that the nearby intersection between Ramallah and Beit El was the site of violent Arab riots when the Oslo War broke out in late 2000, and at least two separate lynchings were attempted against Jews there."
Also removed was a checkpoint at the entrance to Nablus (Shechem), even though Nablus is a key center of terrorism. The IDF encirclement of the area — which has been a major factor in decreasing terrorism in the area — is now ended.
A third, considered less critical, is outside of Hebron.
"’The checkpoints are a most significant factor in the war against Palestinian terrorism,’ a top IDF officer told [defense correspondent Haggai] Huberman, ‘in thwarting attacks, in catching wanted terrorists, and in intercepting weapons… The number of checkpoints in Judea and Samaria at present is the absolute minimum necessary for Israeli security. Taking off even one more will lower the security level to "below the red line’ of risk."’
"…The Defense Minister gave the order to remove the checkpoints in accordance with Secretary Rice’s wishes – but in defiance of clear IDF warnings that shooting attacks against Israeli citizens and soldiers are likely to be renewed as a result. Senior Central Region officers told Barak directly that checkpoint removals in the past have led to significant increases in attacks."
A pox on the houses of all those involved with political and defense issues here who put the lives of innocent Jews at risk.