Last Sunday, the day Ehud Olmert resigned as prime minister of Israel, a newspaper ran a cartoon of him clearing out his desk and telling his expected successor, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, "I'll just collect the last envelopes and be out of here."
If the humor seems obscure from afar, the point is that envelopes are no longer innocent objects in Israeli politics. Mr. Olmert agreed to step down more than two years early because of allegations that as Jerusalem's mayor and Israel's industry minister he took cash-stuffed envelopes from an American businessman.
Whatever happens to Mr. Olmert — he says he will be exonerated — he is leaving in disgrace. Yossi Sarid, a former cabinet minister, summed up the feelings of many when he wrote, "Perhaps only his closest aides and a few personal friends will wipe away a tear."
But it turns out that there are others who deeply regret Mr. Olmert's departure: many in the nation's peace camp. Never mind, they say, that Mr. Olmert came from the hawkish right and that they despised him for decades; he now embraces the need for a negotiated peace accord with the Palestinians, and indeed the entire Arab world, as a practical necessity and possibility, in a way that no other Israeli leader ever has. And now, having allowed himself to be dragged down by money, he will not be able to bring his efforts to fruition. This, they say, is the Greek tragedy of Ehud Olmert.