Olmert’s Last Gambling

By Faisal Assegaf

It wasn’t surprisingly if Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, 62 year, ready to hold mistake because he was so sure could be freed again from legal process. Even involved in bribe case, he refused requests to step down by most of Israeli people, included several figures in his party. Like politicians in Indonesia, he opted to stay until the court decides he is guilty.

Whereas, his popularity has decreased after recognizing accepted cash money from Morris Talansky, a Jews American businessman who deal with mini bar hotel. During 15 years, he got more than US$ 150,000.

This Kadima Party’s leader has affirmed those money donated for his campaign and not for personal interest. But Talansky who always giving cash money in envelope as demanded by Olmert vowed that his money also used to pay Olmert and his family’s trip to Sardinia beach, Italy, and to pay his hotel’s room in New York.

Olmert had five times freed from the court’s verdict. In 1970’s, Olmert was charged manipulated Likud’s money. This case has been solved out of court. In 1999, police investigated bribe accusation for campaign fund against Olmert Ariel Sharon. But in June 2004, Israeli Attorney General decided to close that case because hadn’t enough evidences. While became Trade, Industry and Labor Minister last year, he denied involved actively in an investment centre.

If this time he freed again, it’s not enough to recover his reputation that became worse since Israel lost in July 2006 war that killed his 156 soldiers. Even most of 1,200 people died were Hezbollah, Israel couldn’t destroy the capability of organization led by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

The Winograd Committee’s preliminary report in April last year concluded that Olmert, Defence Minister Amir Peretz, and Chief of Arm Forces General Dan Halutz were failed because the war has launched without a clear plan. The committee has been chaired by a retired judge Elyahu Winograd argued that those three officials were too hurry and without guide while decided to war.

That’s why, Olmert has depended his hope on release of Staff Sergeant Eldad Regev and Mayor Sergeant Ehud Goldwasser who were kidnapped by Hezbollah on 12 July 2006. The incident that also killed three other Israeli soldiers has triggered the 34 days war between two sides.

But the 16 July agreement with the most powerful Shiite group in south Lebanon failed to raise his image. Otherwise, the prisoner swap has reaffirmed Israel’s lost in the war two years ago. Thounsands of Israeli people have been sorrowed welcoming the arrival of bodies of Regev and Goldwasser. On the other hand, Hezbollah’s supporters in Beirut and southern Lebanon have cheered the arrival of Samir Qantar and his colleagues like heroes. Domestically, Olmert has been blamed and laughed by Lebanese people.

Whereas, he has paid high cost to bring back those two dead bodies. Israel has released five prisoners, included Samir Qantar, and 199 bodies of Hezbollah fighters. Qantar was convicted four times life sentenced after murdered a father and his 4 years old daughter, and two polices in Nahariya in 1979. At the time, he was just 16 year old and that strike was carried out along with three members of the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

It’s not this time, Israel lost from Hezbollah that has been recognized by the US and Israel as a terrorist organization. The same deal was reached in 2004 also forced Prime Minister Ariel Sharon released 400 Palestinian prisoners and 59 bodies of Hezbollah fighters for an Israeli civilian and three Israeli soldier bodies.

His last opportunity has depended on Shalit release. Olmert has been ran after by time because in the next mid September there will be election for a new Kadima’s leader. He will face three strong opponents: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter. The elected leader will also replace Olmert’s position as a prime minister.

Therefore, he is most likely ready to pay more expensive than the price of Regev and Goldwasser to bring Shalit that was held on 25 June 2006 in safe. His chance is still open because Shalit has sent two letters through the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC). He has said he was safe.

Hamas has asked release about 1,400 Palestinian prisoners, included their three senior members: Hassan Salami, Abdullah Barghuti, and Ibrahim Hamad. Al-Bayan newspaper has reported that Olmert was agree to exchange Shalit’s release with Marwan Barghuti, a leader of two intifadahs in 1985 and 2000. He was in jailed in Hadarim prison, Nataniyah, about six kilometers from Tel Aviv. The father of four children has been convicted for five times life sentenced.

It seemed 1,400 Palestinian priosoners plus Marwan Barghuti isn’t a negotiable price. It’s very match for Shalit that has become Olmert’s last gambling to keep his position as the 12th Israeli Prime Minister.

This article was published on Koran Tempo daily, 2 August 2008



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