The end of Olmert?

The heat is rising on Ehud Olmert to resign. Since U.S. Jewish businessman Morris Talansky testified Tuesday in an Israeli court that he handed over some $150,00 to Olmert over the course of 13 years, and not all of it was accounted for, Defense Minister Ehud Barak joined the chorus of voices calling for Olmert’s head and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said the Kadima party, of which she and Olmert are members, should prepare for new elections.

On Thursday, the Israeli dailies Ha’aretz and the Jerusalem Post led with editorials calling on the prime minister to step down. Ma’ariv columnist Ben Caspit, who describes the public outcry for Olmert’s head as a “lynching,” writes that the governmental purge should extend beyond Olmert to an entire generation of “leaders” who have lost their way. A self-described furious Yigal Sarna writes in Ynet that Talansky’s testimony on Olmert prompts

the same sense of nausea when lifting an old sewage lid and discovering a world filled with insects and rats and everything that is hidden from view right under our feet – we guess that it exists, but it’s not the same as seeing it with our own eyes.

So who would lead Israel after Olmert’s gone? In a profile Thursday, The New York Post calls Kadima’s Livni “Mrs. Clean” and pronounces her “likely the next prime minister,” but Israeli polls show her only narrowly edging out the Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu. Livni does have one big advantage over Bibi and the other major-party PM hopeful, Labor’s Barak: In a country disgusted with its failed leaders, Livni is the only one of the three who has not yet been prime minister. The New York Times ran this profile of Livni a year ago.

Of course, none of this means Olmert’s actually on his way out. He has promised to step down if indicted, but that hasn’t happened so far, and Olmert has survived other major corruption probes before – and calls for his resignation by Livni and Barak. Never a dull moment in Israel, though plenty of dispiriting ones of late.

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