Olmert exit excites strong feelings in Israeli media
“The right step,” Israel’s most popular news daily screamed in red letters on Thursday across a front-page photo showing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, his back turned, after he announced plans to resign.
Olmert’s announcement on Wednesday triggered bold headlines and even bolder commentaries in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth in a climax to months of tensions over corruption scandals.
In a country of news junkies where emotions are raw and debate as hot as a mid-summer’s day, Israeli dailies typically give expression to pent-up feelings almost as much as they seek to inform.
Global concerns about the future of Middle East peace talks were not the main focus. Speculating over the political impact of Olmert’s downfall was more the order of the day.
“He couldn’t take it any more,” read the headline over a column on Yedioth’s front page by Eitan Haber, a former aide to the late Yitzhak Rabin, once a rival of Olmert’s felled by an Israeli rightist assassin who opposed peace talks.
“Olmert died in the war and was buried by the investigations,” Yedioth commentator Nahum Barnea wrote in another piece, referring to Olmert’s censure by an official panel for his handling of a 2006 war in Lebanon.
Some Israeli writers praised the dignified manner in which Olmert delivered his statement, quietly vowing to step aside and looking uncharacteristically humble in a speech broadcast live over radio and television.
Olmert protested his innocence, but his remarks bore little of the traditional mudslinging common in Israel’s fractious politics. “He lost with honour,” wrote Sima Kadmon, taking an unusually deferential tone.
In her article entitled “Not so fast,” Kadmon, a veteran political journalist, wrote the complex political manoeuvring needed to form a new government or to hold an election may result in Olmert remaining in office for months to come.
Under Israeli law, Olmert stays on as caretaker leader for the weeks or months it could take to form a new government or hold an election. “Olmert has announced the end of his political career, but the ending may drag on, and he could end up staying on as premier through next February or March,” Kadmon wrote.