As Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert prepares to leave office, he does so under a cloud of successive ethical and political failures. He departs his office with the noteworthiness of being the first Israeli prime minister to leave after having been indicted on charges of theft, breach of trust and fraud.

Additionally, unlike many of his predecessors, he leaves office with practically no popular support.

This cloud, however, does not seem to be affecting Mr. Olmert publicly.

“I am leaving with a sense of joy and satisfaction,” Mr. Olmert said yesterday, without hesitation, on his final day in office, three years after he was elected.

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His term in office likely will be remembered as much for its failures as anything else.

Mr. Olmert’s tenure oversaw the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, which the Winograd Commission – which he appointed to investigate Israeli conduct in the conflict – declared a failure.

The prime minister’s decision to send Israeli troops into Gaza in late December and early January produced few results except to strengthen Hamas’ resolve. The invasion had been intended to prevent the militants from firing rockets and mortar shells at Israeli targets; however, they did not stop. Mr. Olmert’s effort to return Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli prisoner of war held by Hamas in Gaza, likewise failed, and the war in Gaza made Israel especially hated worldwide.

From the day he failed in Lebanon and the investigations against him began, it was clear he was living on borrowed time. Since then, he has engaged mainly in survival.

The September 2007 strike against a Syrian nuclear reactor stands as his only acknowledged real achievement. Few details of the strike, however, are actually known.

Mr. Olmert leaves office as the “almost” man. He “almost” reached a breakthrough with Syria. He “almost” signed with the Palestinian Authority to end the conflict, and he “almost” brought back Gilad Shalit.

The charges against the outgoing prime minister, according to Israel’s law enforcement agencies, stem from his having allegedly abused his decades of power and status to gain – by every possible means – apartments, benefits, appointments for associates, airline tickets for family members, envelopes filled with cash, all at the public’s expense.

He will now stand trial on three criminal indictments, concerning accusations that he mishandled private investments, took bribes from an American businessman and embezzled funds from philanthropies.

Mr. Olmert’s legacy contrasts with previous Israeli prime ministers who left office with pride and who have major institutes and centers named after them, such as Golda Meir, David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett, Menahem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.

The departing prime minister has hired public relations professionals to promote him as a speaker abroad, where he will ask for top fees to cover the legal costs that he will incur in the years to come. It remains to be seen if Mr. Olmert’s reputation in Israel will follow him abroad.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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