Analysis: Olmert wreaks revenge in memoir

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 21, 2010
Ehud Barak was ‘incapable of taking decisions’, wrote Ehud Olmert

Ehud Barak was ‘incapable of taking decisions’, wrote Ehud Olmert

The current political status of the two Ehuds hardly seems comparable. Defence Minister Ehud Barak was in Washington this week, conferring with senior figures in the Obama administration and then attending more high-level meetings at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on the other hand, spent most of his week hunkered down with his lawyers, preparing for another series of damning testimonies by a former secretary on his double-billing speaking fees in the ongoing corruption case against him.

But if the headlines of the Israeli newspapers of the last few days are anything to go by, Ehud the suspected felon has gained the upper hand over Ehud the statesman.

Last Friday, Yedioth Achronot ran its second excerpt of Mr Olmert's upcoming memoir. There is no name yet to the book, nor even a definite date for publication, but the agenda is already very clear. The disgraced premier is out to get those who forced him out of office.

Top of the list: the Labour leader who forced him out of office last year.

The first chapter was relatively innocuous. Mr Olmert told the story of the fateful night of Ariel Sharon's stroke, when he suddenly found himself at the helm of the government. In the Yom Kippur instalment, though, he went straight for the jugular.

Mr Barak, who served as defence minister in the second half of Mr Olmert's premiership, had been "hesitant, lacking clarity and capability to make decisions". He blamed him for disloyalty, mainly trying to join the new party Kadima behind the backs of his Labour colleagues, of ranting on and on in meetings and then dozing off while others talked.

"Worst of all was his attitude to his underlings, including the top commanders of the IDF who he routinely insulted."

At a lecture in Tel Aviv on Monday, Mr Olmert drove home the accusations when he lightly hinted at Mr Barak's reluctance to order the September 2007 air-strike on the Syrian nuclear reactor.

The Defence Minister's office issued a terse statement describing Mr Olmert's allegations as "pathetic utterances unworthy of comment", but even from faraway Washington, the fact that none of his ministerial colleagues had sprang to his defence could not have escaped him.

The scandalous political memoir is a rather underdeveloped genre in Israel.

Few former ministers have spilled the beans.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has written a number of books but they are all about his strategic and financial policies.

The last time a politician's autobiography hit the headlines in a similar fashion was 31 years ago when Yitzhak Rabin branded his Labour party rival, Shimon Peres, "a relentless underminer", a nickname that stuck for many years.

A major reason for their reticence is that few senior politicians seem capable of retiring; they just stick around waiting for yet another chance to sit around the cabinet table.

Following his forced resignation early last year, Mr Olmert's friends promised he would clear his name in court and then return to the parliamentary fray.

As new evidence unfolds in his trial and the police prepare yet another round of charges in the Holyland corruption case, it seems that chances of ever seeing him back in the Knesset are rapidly dwindling.

The autobiography is proof he understands that too, but he is not going to go softly into the political twilight.

Given Mr Olmert's notoriously vindictive nature, Ehud Barak is only the first name on his literary hit-list.

Last updated: 2:53pm, September 21 2010