Ehud Olmert has many good qualities. The prime minister is a good friend to his comrades, a devoted father to his children, and is loyal to his followers. He is not brilliant, but he is intelligent. He is not profound, but he is pragmatic. Energetic, diligent and levelheaded. Olmert has many of the traits required of a decision maker. He also has a virtuoso ability to create networks of power, reinforce them and activate them in times of need.
Olmert is a gifted and multifaceted politician. He knows how to be charming and how to be threatening, to play a man of the world but also to relate to ordinary people. It is doubtful if there is anyone in Israel with more connections. It is doubtful if there is anyone like him who knows how to woo the powerful and pal around with criminals.
And nevertheless, the prime minister has one shortcoming that overshadows all his good qualities: The man lacks substance. He has no worldview and no overall picture of reality. He has no ethical foundations and no structural principles. Olmert has no core. He has no Tablets of Stone. In the most profound sense, he does not know where he came from and where he is going. That is why today he can say the opposite of what he said yesterday, without batting an eyelash. Nor does he have any difficulty saying one thing and doing another. Since he is guided by litigation rather than the truth, the prime minister is capable of changing his skin and changing his policy like a chameleon. That is why he is a serial exploiter of opportunities and a brilliant survivor, but a hopeless shaper of reality.
As a captain without direction and without a compass, Olmert stretches his opportunism to the absurd and his pragmatism to the point of losing the way. He arouses passions and engages in sleight of hand and is occasionally hypnotic, but in his 40 years in politics he has not left any mark. Even in his two years as prime minister he has not done anything genuine.