"The Hebrew press didn't lose out on much when I left to focus on other business," former prime minister Ehud Olmert told the Israel Defense Forces weekly, Bamahaneh, referring to the fact that Olmert himself was a reporter there during most of his compulsory service.
Didn't lose out? It gained, in a big way, and not because Olmert chose politics over the media, but because, as he climbed the ladder of public life, the entire media benefited. Those who were friendly with him did not lack for information, and those who were not charmed by him were exposed to a great deal of disturbing information, thanks to his serial entanglements with suspected criminal activities.
If Olmert had stayed in journalism, he could have written a column along the lines of "Seen and Heard," from the bygone days of this newspaper, but it would be "Seen Not, Heard Not." His life proceeded on two levels. On one level, he was decisive and authoritative, sharp and knowledgeable, with no detail escaping his attention - in the party, the municipality and the cabinet.
The second level was populated by all kinds of Shulas and Rachels, Talanskys and Uri Messers, who took care of the disgusting details so as not to bother the great man.
If that is to be Olmert's defense at his trial in Jerusalem, he is in for trouble, precisely because he managed to sell this worn-out argument once or twice before. The last of the prosecution witnesses from the police, whose names are listed in the indictment, is Brig. Gen. (ret.) Zecharia Banai.
Twenty years ago Banai, then head of the police national fraud squad, sat across from Olmert and questioned him about a trip his wife had taken using a ticket purchased from the Rishon Tours travel agency with prohibited money. He put the responsibility on Shula Zaken's doorstep. Banai can attest to a pattern of behavior, a pattern of relationships between Olmert and the owners of the travel agency.
At the time Olmert was convincing with District Court Judge Oded Mudrik in the case of the Likud accounts - where all the other suspects were convicted except Olmert, inter alia because it was impossible to conceive of the mayor of Jerusalem, the city of truth, commiting the sin of lying.
He also convinced Attorney General Menachem Mazuz in the latter's first decision in his early days in office, in January 2004, that in the Greek Island affair, David Appel's business was handled by aides, among them, as usual, Shula Zaken.
A reasonable person would assume that from then on Olmert would realize the responsibility was his and would not try to pass the buck. Olmert did not come to this realization, but Mazuz certainly did; now the Attorney General's Office, which learned the lesson of Mudrik (who was alone on the bench) and has asked the president of the Jerusalem District Court, Judge Moussia Arad, to appoint a three-judge bench to hear Olmert's case.
The indictment tells a shameful tale of theft, fraud, deviousness and deceptions ostensibly practiced on the state's treasury, its ministries and comptrollers - all ostensibly, since the burden of proof is on the prosecution.
For the first time it becomes clear the suspicions against Olmert did not stop growing the day he became prime minister; the Olmert family allegedly used money that was not theirs on into 2007, when he was prime minister, after the Second Lebanon War and while he was under investigation for other affairs. Only one thing can explain such arrogance: The accused deluded himself that he had managed to plan the perfect crime.
The Olmert trial will apparently be handled by the Jerusalem district prosecutor, Eli Abarbanel, and his deputy, Uri Korev. State Prosecutor Moshe Lador will be there to encourage them, but at the moment he does not plan on prosecuting the case himself.
Lador was is in Europe on official business and was not present at the final meeting in Mazuz's office when the final formulas of the indictment were hammered out; but the essential decisions were made in discussion between Lador and Mazuz.
The police, the prosecution and the attorney general have done sacred work with the Olmert files. Thanks to them, whatever the court says and however it says it, this country will somehow be better off.
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