Analysis: Olmert’s air miles have proved costly

Ehud Olmert’s wanderlust has been well documented by the Israeli media. In his second term as Jerusalem mayor, which lasted four and a half years, he clocked up no less than 294 days in 55 trips outside Israel. His destinations ranged from Japan to Brazil, but his favourite city was New York, where his good friend, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, awarded him the rare privilege of being allowed to park anywhere in the Big Apple.

In subsequent posts as Trade Minister, Treasury Minister and Prime Minister, he stayed a frequent flyer. His round of farewell visits - two weeks ago to the White House and next Tuesday at Downing Street - are his last opportunity to fly first class on the Israeli taxpayer.

Olmert’s globetrotting arguably has brought great benefit to his country. He has established invaluable relationships with powerful world leaders, created lucrative business opportunities for Israeli entrepreneurs and maintained fantastic ties with the Jewish diaspora. But he has been totally lacking in any sense of proportion and sensitivity to public feeling.

Ultimately, these trips proved to be his political downfall; the first of the myriad corruption investigations to crystallise into official charges is going to be the “Rishon tours” case, in which he is suspected of double-billing for trips abroad. The next case will probably involve suspected bribe-taking during a visit to New York.

London will have the dubious honour next week of being Olmert’s last official destination (though he may decide that after bidding adieu to Bush and Brown, Sarkozy, Merkel and Berlusconi also merit visits).
The two PMs may enjoy their photo-op. For the rest of us, this will be a visit well worth forgetting.

    Last updated: 2:27pm, November 8 2010