You want to ask me for a small favor? It's quite a big one, said Martin Shlaf to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. His cell phone was hanging between his ear and his shoulder, since his hands were preoccupied in stroking a strange contraption that seemed like a torturing device used during the inquisition. Just don't call me next time, continued Shlaf peacefully, when you get another bite from the "Scorpion".
Shalf hung up the phone and focused on the thing he had flirted with during the call: Red and silvery device weighing 70Kg (about 140 lb.), with a height of 77 cm, a large pulley and blades. Shlaf was excited like a little boy - That's my Berkel he said. This baby is from 1907, and it's good as new. Only 84 of them were produced worldwide. I bought it for the same price as one of your apartments here in Tel-aviv, and flew it over from across the planet in a private jet. Jeez, till I found one of those, and now it's mine. So eat up - and enjoy yourselves.
A lot of wine was poured during lunch at the grand dining hall in Shalf residence set at Vienna's first district. Plenty of Israeli art was hanging on the walls, those Shlaf managed to take from his house in Galei Tchelet street in Herzeliya Pituah when he escaped Israel pending the beginning of the investigation of Sharon and his sons and Syril Keren as well. The private chef presented delectable meals in infinite small plates - and Shlaf couldn't stop his enthusiasm. It's the Ferrari of meat slicing machinery, said Shlaf and placed a huge plate on the table - check out how much thin the prosciutto came out. I gazed upon the red-silvery machine, which sparked up his senses, and all I could think of was that a person who can get so excited from such monstrosity, is de facto thinking about the politicians he's slicing up.
In the meantime, The "Scorpion" - Ehud Barak - didn't stop texting to my mobile. "So, what's up?" he asked me, and also: "What happened?", "Maybe you just call me and let me know?".
Shlaf had a long and open account with Barak, then candidate in the primaries against Ami Ayalon for the position of head of the Avoda (Labor) party. And also, a fat check was involved: in the elections for prime minister, Shlaf transferred half a million dollars into the account by cashier's cheques, donation for the second round. But the second round was not happening anymore, for Barak was able to defeat Binyamin Netanyahu in the first round. And what about the money? according to Barak, that clarified the issue with Doron Cohen - the attorney, brother-in-law and financial resources - the money was long gone.
However, this check wasn't the only issue between Shalf and Barak. Just prior to his defeat by the hands of Ariel Sharon, Barak managed to leak "black" intelligence material that the IDF has laid upon his desk, i.e. that Dubi Visgles, Omry Sharon and Yvette Liberman are going to Vienna to close up a deal with Shlaf and Muhamad Rashid. Shalf always had many shares in Israel, rather a closed Casino near Jericho that got bombed during the second Intifada and stopped producing money, along with a gigantic ship which was docking near the city of Eilat and never received the permit to start rolling the roulette. Then journalist Ayala Hasson was waiting for them in the airport with a camera. The mayhem was enormous, though the deal was signed with a bless and Sharon landed in the Prime minister's Office.
Nevertheless Sharon collapsed just prior to the ending of the Intifada and before he could accomplish a peace treaty. So the casino never opened, the ship was still docking just beside the harbor - and Ehud Barak? he still never refunded the cash.
Making peace with Yvette, a good word for Deri
Yet during the time in which Olmert was still the prime minister and became political dust in the surveys after the second Lebanese war, he came to Barak's aid - chiefly to save himself. Olmert had the notion that if he would win over Barak in the primaries, he'll replace Amir Peretz as the Defense Minister, and he'll regain the public's trust. So he pressured Shalf to forsake the money, to not go the media regarding the cheque. Olmert said to Shlaf, it wasn't him, it was me. Please let him be and help me. Shlaf realized that if Barak won't win the primaries, Olmert will have to retire with great disgrace and after a brief service as prime minister, and if so - no peace, no casino, nor the ship. Therefore, when Olmert is asking for a little favor, who knows? perhaps a great deal might turn out from that little favor.
Ehud Barak thanked Ehud Olmert for the Search and Rescue operation, but Olmert explained him that there was still another tiny problem. Maybe you can talk to Yvette (Avigdor) Liberman and ask him for forgiveness? Moreover, go give Arie Deri a pet on the back, Martin loves those guys. Martin doesn't trust you even for a bit, and it couldn't do any harm to pay some seriousness fee.
It wasn't the first time in which Ehud O. helped Ehud B. to win. Previously he volunteered to defend him during a different election campaign, when he interviewed to the media and said Bibi is lying and Barak would never forsake Jerusalem. Barak won the election and became prime minister, and was willing to relinquish Jerusalem - and said that it was all Olmert's idea, and that he came up to him with a map and authorized to divide it into slices. Ehud B's knife was pulled out of its sheath and was stabbed into Ehud O.'s back - and indeed not for the last time.
Many years have passed since then. Barak had been the prime minister and lost the position, became a millionaire, got married and divorced. Barak decided to quit the game. He asked for forgiveness, Olmert agreed to start up anew and Shlaf never forgot - but he left. When Barak won the primaries in the Avoda party, a new dawn was set upon Olmert, and the little blow he got in his wing from Barak earlier on, stopped hurting.
It didn't hurt up to that morning, in which Moshe Talensky came to court and poured his heart out on the stand telling all about the money envelopes. The country was tumult over the revelation of the prime minister's corruptness, Olmert was swinging in his chair while Barak saw opportunity and quickly gathered a press conference. If Olmert won't quit, I'll leave and take down the government with me, so he said, and stabbed the knife once again - and turned it in. The dance of swords between the two men renewed.
In the role of the Secretariat: Ehud Olmert
We spend time every year in Kibbutz Bet Alfa. There, under the Gilboa mountain range, Lior insisted that we'll watch over our family. A sweet memory of what use to be, before the big money arrived. Before we started going on indulging vacations overseas. Before we grew apart from our soul. Before I became the hyphen connecting between capital-government-media.
We'd spent a few nights a year in an old room with agency beds, inside a building which was the first children's home of the first group of Hashomer Hatzair. Once, while we were sitting on the bench after the cultured milk and salad of the Kibbutz style breakfast, I received a phone call from an unlisted number with a familiar voice. Without the mediation of a secretariat. Come over immediately, I'm right here. You know that house. Oh, you're there? For how long? Get on road 6, how long it'll take you? I'm waiting, come.
I left from the faraway north, passed through Tel-Aviv to disguise myself with a suit and tie - and landed in the prime minister's residence. He begged me to help, you remember? said Olmert. If I didn't reach out to him, he would have kept on lecturing. He took Martin's money and never gave it back, and he preaches me morality about the envelopes? I was warned many times that he would sting again.
This time Olmert had some black info on his table. Olmert decided that within the dance of swords between the two men, in this round, he will be the one having the last word. He remembered that he read or heard or saw somewhere, that during the primaries Barak vanished from the country for a short period. Do you know where he went and for which purpose, he asked.
In Barak's comeback campaign for the Avoda party leadership I ran the difficult campaign against Ami Ayalon. Fuad Ben-Eliezer brought as always the votes contractors, and about half a decade after he was ousted in disgrace - we helped Barak get back on his feet once more. But since then I got kicked out of there, and a knife was stabbed into my back and was turned as well. Is there a way to seek revenge? so happily, why not? Party!
It's true that during the campaign Barak went several times to New York, so I replied. Everybody were upset since he was skipping the campaign and leaving us to fight and work on our own, though he explained that he had to resign from some Boards of Directors and clear out private businesses prior to his return into the national affairs.
Olmert gazed at me with mercy: it doesn't make since that a serious guy like you thinks this way. Give me a moment to clarify. He finished a call with Shlaf, that said I told you so, but also that he's always here to help. Make a few calls to our friends in the Fifth Avenue, they know for sure. Olmert, the prime minister, instantly became the operator. A call to here and there, in Israel and overseas. He and Barak had also a few common friends. And after almost an hour of inquiries in the big city, the person who was in the room with Barak when he went to close his private affairs was located. I'm just about to go to the government, I can't keep on receiving retainers as I did last year.
Olmert made a few extra calls, and a document was found. Send it over please? Within several minutes, the old fax machine emitted it in the prime minister's residence. A few days, and here it was in a televised investigation on channel 10 by Raviv Druker: Barak, a minister, and his new wife, member of the capital-government-media connection. The lobbying company's name is Taurus, the manager's name is Nili Priel, and she's offering to clear a path directly to the hearts of the "decision-makers", in exchange for a large monthly retainer.
Is this a real document, I asked incredulously? You're sure it's not a fake? Olmert smiled with pleasure, do I look like a criminal? The state comptroller immediately launched an investigation. Barak went nuts and hired a private investigator since he was sure someone broke into his apartment and downloaded the file of his desktop.
Liberman, a friend and a brother
One day, during work, I got an unidentified phone call. Yaniv? Hi, it's Yaron. Tomorrow at nine I'll be waiting for you at 1 Pesach Lev street in Lod. No, I can't tell you the reason. Don't talk to anyone. Please come on time, alone. I haven't slept all night.
In the morning I was pale, sweaty in my palms and my eyes were running all over restlessly. For a full hour I twisted and tried to answer the question of why Yvette Liberman said in the investigation I was his good friend, "friend-brother", and that I could be trusted. And what's the connection with what I did that day in the prime minister's residence, and how does Shlaf stands in the center of it all. I couldn't recognize any paper that was presented to me with respect to details of bank transfers.
I came out of there completely white. Like lime. I couldn't sleep during the next several nights. I didn't dare to tell Lior about it for weeks. How the hell I got involved with this gang? and how am I connected to all of this? The brown steel door of Lahav Unit 433 slammed behind me and I went inside the elevator. Within a minute I was on the ground, a few seconds later I escaped towards the exit. One more minute and I was in the garage. Seconds later in my car. I realized I just got interrogated by the police, oh my god!
And then a text massage arrives from Olmert: Are you still in or you got out already? How the hell does he know? I didn't tell anyone. I thought that I could spin the entire world on my little finger, and realized I was in fact the skewer and kebab roasting on the barbecue.
This Text is based upon the sixth chapter from the forthcoming online book "U-turn" by Eldad Yaniv.