It is not without reason that Ehud Olmert has been called a “post-ideological” premier. When Ariel Sharon had his fatal stroke in 2006, Mr Olmert, with his innate gift for self-preservation and a flair for blinkered national interest, became the leader of a party noted for its disdain of any fixed political doctrine. Ever since it came into existence in 2005, the Kadima party has donned all possible mantles, shifting allegiances among centrist, leftist and rightist lobbies, ending up with a radical rejection of ideological imperatives altogether. “Survival first” has been its implicit credo, which Mr Olmert is now emulating with disarming integrity. Suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, he has offered to resign from office this September. He is proud to be the citizen of a country where the prime minister is not above the rule of law. Indeed, he should feel prouder, given the illustrious pantheon he is about to join: three of the last four Israeli heads of state left office while facing corruption charges, while not one of the last five premiers could complete a full term.
Admittedly, Mr Olmert has tried in his own blundering way to resolve the crisis in west Asia. From the attack on Hizbollah in Lebanon in 2006 to arguing in favour of the “two-nation theory” and a provisional ceasefire with Hamas a month ago, he has tried his best to keep the show running. This showmanship is now reinforced by his decision to step down from power. Until the Kadima party elects the new prime minister — Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, being the most likely candidate — Mr Olmert will continue as a transitional premier. If Kadima fails to get the requisite majority to form the government, the general elections, slotted for 2010, would have to be rescheduled. So, Mr Olmert could end up enjoying de facto power for anything between the next three to ten months. Instead of raking up the muck any further, it would be fairer on Israelis, as also on Binyamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Opposition, Likud party, to have early national elections.