In July, the Jerusalem District Court convicted former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of breach of trust. He was acquitted in two other cases, although his conduct was described in harsh terms and the court accepted as factual many of the prosecution's arguments.
The state prosecution is set to appeal one or both the acquittals at the Supreme Court. If it does not appeal, rulings will stand that mean values in public service have been abandoned. In the Tel Aviv District Court, meanwhile, Olmert is on trial for corruption in the Holyland real estate deal. Olmert is therefore a convicted felon and is still under indictment.
In recent years, Israel has seen a president and six ministers put on trial, convicted and sentenced - Aryeh Deri, Yitzhak Mordechai, Tzachi Hanegbi, Haim Ramon, Abraham Hirchson and Shlomo Benizri. Some went to prison, others were deemed guilty of crimes involving moral turpitude, and others received lesser penalties. But it is still infuriating that the road from the premiership to conviction can be a two-way street.
Last summer, the day after Olmert's conviction and before his sentencing, he was quick to disabuse people of the notion that he was considering returning to politics. He even gave up certain benefits due him as a former prime minister to avoid a ruling that his actions involved moral turpitude.
The judges, it seems, fell into this trap. They treated Olmert as he was and not as what he might yet be. The moment he got what he wanted, he changed his mind and reopened discussions on his political future as a candidate for the Knesset, perhaps even as head of a party list and prime minister in another three months.
The willingness of many Israelis, according to opinion polls, to consider the candidacy of a felon recently convicted of breaching their trust is sorry testimony to the mood in Israel. It also reflects the feverish search for an alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But rationality and proper governance must not allow a felon still under indictment to run in the upcoming elections. Israel is not that corrupt and desperate. Olmert must not take part in the elections.
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