Paul Greenberg

In a different time and in a different Israel, another premier - Golda Meir - prepared to step aside after an official inquiry criticized her for not having foreseen the surprise attacks from both north and south that stunned Israel at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Even though that same report also pointed to her steadfastness after the onslaught began. (It was said at the time in Israel that Golda had proved herself the only real man in the Cabinet.)

What a contrast with the mod Israel: After an official inquiry into Israel's last war detailed Ehud Olmert's multiple failures as a wartime leader, it took him over a year to announce his resignation. And then it wasn't because of his manifest inadequacies in that conflict but because of still another investigation of his tangled finances.

Ehud Olmert is all too representative of mod, upwardly mobile Israel. Is it only Ariel Sharon, the Israelis' last great general, who's fallen into a comatose state, or has the spirit of the whole country done so as well? A once pioneering, almost spartan society seems to have developed a disease at its psychic core. Call it Olmertism.

Thanks to the byzantine rules of Israel's semi-parliamentary, semi-constitutional but always raucous democracy, Ehud Olmert will remain in office for an uncertain while, the timing of his exit as cloudy as most other things in the always hazy Middle East.

If there was one success of the Olmert Years, it was the virtual completion of the wall - excuse me, security barrier - that now has prevented all but a few suicide attacks within most of the Jewish state. And, oh yes, one more thing: Ehud Olmert can also take credit for making the hawkish leader of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu, the popular favorite to succeed him.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.