Less than a month ago, everything seemed to be going former prime minister Ehud Olmert's way.
He had formed a new international consulting firm with former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz. The firm was expected to rake in huge sums from advising foreign countries and corporations on security issues.
His legal problems looked like they were about to end. The top witness against him in the Holyland trial, Shmuel Duchner, had died. The Justice Ministry had announced that it would not be cutting a plea bargain deal with Olmert's former secretary Shula Zaken to turn state’s witness against him in the Holyland trial.
Had he been cleared in the Holyland trial and appeals in the Talansky and Rishon tours cases, Olmert was set to make a political comeback and challenge Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He told The Jerusalem Post
in an interview that he would decide his political future when the cases against him were closed.
Politicians close to Olmert said he felt personally wronged by the charges that ended his premiership and was determined to come back in order to get another chance to be prime minister. They said he was the only possible candidate who could unite the Center- Left, which ran with four parties last election.
Monday, following Olmert's conviction
, some of those politicians close to Olmert did not pick up the phone. And those that did anonymously expressed their pity.
They said they were sad for Israel, which will apparently soon have a former prime minister in jail
for bribery, perhaps even sharing a cell with a former president convicted of rape. They were also sad to lose a leader of Olmert's caliber.
But they were also privately angry with themselves for trusting Olmert. They knew about the skeletons in his closet.
They weren't really even in his closet. The debts of his brother Yossi, whose testimony incriminated him, were well known. And the enormous Holyland project could be seen from anywhere in Jerusalem.
They expressed frustration that they had not found a different successor for former prime minister Ariel Sharon who could have advanced the diplomatic process without the legal problems that would down him and perhaps chances of an agreement with the Palestinians along with him.
Olmert, who began his career as a right-wing firebrand who led a battle against political corruption, ended his career as a left-wing disappointment whose corruption did him in.
The rise and fall of Ehud Olmert will serve as a lesson to younger politicians, who are now traumatized and terrified of anything that could be considered the least bit unclean. Even if problematic acts are not noticed now, they could be found out years later when they have advanced up the political ladder.
They have been duly warned: The bigger they are, the harder they will fall.