The Olmert affair has come and all but gone. A few more invoices here and some daggers there will be hurled at the hemorrhaging political corpse hanging in the town square, and Ehud Olmert will disappear into the sunset. A hedonistic, spendthrift prime minister, a relatively small-time, corrupt man who, like many others, did not know where to the draw the line between public and private money and who - like many of his colleagues in the upper crust of government - thought that a politician deserves everything, is going home. Olmert and his transgressions will be remembered as a footnote in history.
Contrary to the typically passionate claims of a few self-styled protectors of the law, Olmert's conduct did not for one second endanger the rule of law in Israel; it did not threaten its form of government, nor did it undermine the state's foundations. Far more serious acts of corruption have been committed. Much greater dangers stalk and ultimately threaten the rule of law, and our democracy is fissured and fragile due to other phenomena. It isn't the Rishon Tours affair, nor the house on Cremieux Street, nor the Talanskys of this world, nor the cronyism and patronage in the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry that shape the state's character. On the contrary, the manner in which the relevant instruments of power sprang into action and launched an all-out offensive clearly proves that when it comes to minor corruptible violations, the rule of law is in relatively good shape. The danger we are faced with stems from other, incalculably graver circumstances. Nobody has taken it upon himself to wage a war against these circumstances, because this war demands much more courage.
Like the "investigative journalism" programs we see on television, the self-righteous preoccupy themselves with trifle matters. How great it must be to make a name for yourself as a pursuer of justice as you shine the spotlight of your "investigation" onto a rabbi who got a little too frisky or the mechanic who overcharges his customer. This is a war that is universally satisfying to all sides. After all, who wants to tolerate an adulterous rabbi, a swindling mechanic, or a thief for a prime minister?
It goes without saying that such characters are worthy of ostracism, yet these battles are confined to the tiny space illuminated by a flashlight instead of the larger front where the greatest danger awaits. Olmert failed the Kolbotek (a popular consumer affairs TV show) litmus test, and he deserves to be punished accordingly, but the saintly image of the hell-bent seekers of justice that has been affixed to those who have brought him down is exaggerated, if not ridiculous.
Olmert's predecessor was suspected of far more serious crimes. Ariel Sharon and his sons allegedly laid their hands on sums of money that far exceed what has been attributed to Olmert, but Sharon exited the stage of history as a beloved, admired leader, a likeable grandfather figure who tended to his herd and did not harm a soul. A war against Sharon's corruption was a far more difficult proposition because Sharon cut a strong, threatening figure, and he was cherished. He was also responsible for the disengagement, which for some reason was portrayed by some as a step toward peace - perhaps that was the reason why the criminal investigations against him were buried. Those who closed the investigations without indictments and forgave Sharon are also those who are now bitterly ensconced in all-out war against his successor, who is cleaner and weaker by comparison.
But the danger lurking around the corner emanates from a different direction. The law enforcement agencies, the police, the prosecutors and the courts - those we blindly admire - have for some time now ceased to operate as a system of justice with equal rights for all. Rich and poor, Jew and Arab do not receive the same treatment. Can anyone seriously claim that a wealthy individual armed with a phalanx of high-priced lawyers is consigned to the same legal fate as that of "Buzaglo," the average Israeli? Would a Jewish child who hurled a rock at a car receive the same punishment as an Arab child who did the same? Do the Israel Defense Forces and the police investigate settler crimes against Palestinians with the same sense of urgency? Is it a coincidence that the trigger fingers of Israel's police officers become itchier time and again whenever their weapons are pointed in the direction of Arab lawbreakers?
Israel's legal system has already laid the groundwork for the legitimization of an apartheid regime. This is the real danger to the rule of law: The quasi automatic enlistment of the justice system by the defense establishment endangers the rule of law more than all this Olmertism. The IDF's ignoring of High Court rulings, much like the ban on the use of the "neighbor procedure" (soldiers using Palestinian civilians as human shields when arresting militants); the fact that the Shin Bet security service continues to torture suspects in contravention of a High Court ruling; and the failure to implement the court-ordered change to the route of the separation fence should have sent alarm bells ringing among the guardians of justice.
When settlers continue to rampage against Palestinians - not nearly a day goes by without a pogrom and there is no place where armed militias don't roam around, yet nobody investigates these acts nor is anyone tried in court - this threatens the state's character much more than all of Olmert's cash-stuffed envelopes. The situation in the southern Hebron Hills, for example, which for a while now has become abandoned territory, endangers the rule of law far more than all of Olmert's investigations.
In light of all of this, the self-styled knights of justice remain silent, cover their eyes, neither seeing nor hearing. Most importantly, they do not confront these ills. True, it is difficult to do so. It is likely to arouse fierce resistance. So, as a result, they plunge their swords into convenient places, which are safe and which everyone agrees on. They are no Emile Zolas. Rather, just miniature Rafi Ginats.
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