The trial of Ehud Olmert, the former mayor of Jerusalem and prime minister of Israel, is being conducted in an atmosphere that is nothing short of extraordinary. Its start was postponed to allow the defense to find a replacement for one of their number, who was appointed state attorney general. Next came a carefully timed attack on the prosecution, in the form of the publication of negative remarks about the judicial branch made by a key member of the prosecution team. Last week brought an even bigger surprise: a request, this time by the prosecution, to suspend deliberations on the Investment Center case because of a new investigation involving some of the defendants and witnesses. Proceedings have been suspended until May 6.
Until then, it is worth shifting our attention to the new affair, or, to be more precise, an old affair which unfurled slowly and reached its investigatory heights belatedly - that of the Holyland residential project in Jerusalem. In effect, Holyland is code for alleged criminal activity in several such projects around the country, of which Holyland itself is simply the most prominent, literally, on Jerusalem's horizon. Under investigation is suspected corruption among developers, officials and politicians on the municipal and national levels. After reviewing classified documents submitted to him as part of a request to issue arrest warrants for some of the suspects, the deputy president of the Rishon Letzion District Court concluded that the state has a case and that the affair is a serious one.
One undeniable exclamation mark stands out against all the question marks in the case - the Holyland tower, an anomaly to both its natural setting and to good governance. Obviously someone forced the project on Jerusalem. Under investigation are the questions of who, and at what price.
Officially, Olmert is connected only to the trial, not to the Holyland, but some of those implicated or even arrested in the affair are among his associates, and his attorney has mentioned, if dismissively, the possibility of Olmert's arrest. Olmert is absent from his trial and from Israel, due to a strange mix of business, soccer and the Auschwitz concentration camp. This behavior is unacceptable for someone who not only pleads innocence but also broadcasts his hope to return to public life. The police and the prosecution must publicly state whether Olmert is a suspect in the Holyland affair.
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