'Holyland Jerusalem Homes Affair Is Israel's Worst Corruption Case'

State Prosecutor predicts that prime suspects in graft case, including former PM Olmert and former Jerusalem mayor Lupolianski, will know their fates by Passover.

No case in Israel's history "even approaches the scale and level of corruption" of the Holyland building project in Jerusalem, according to State Prosecutor Moshe Lador.

In a wide-ranging interview to be published Friday in Haaretz Magazine, Lador said: "There is a long list of events that add up to a total and systematic picture that truly turns the [Holyland] hill into a construction site that rises in terms of its gravity to high heaven, so to speak."

Moshe Lador - Olivier Fitoussi
Olivier Fitoussi

Lador predicted that by Passover the fates of the top suspects in the case will be decided. These include former prime minister Ehud Olmert, his aide Shula Zaken and former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski, as well as businessmen Danny Dankner, Hillel Charney and Avigdor Kelner.

The state prosecutor said the "true scale" of the Holyland project wasn't initially obvious to him. "You have to understand that the volume of construction that you see Thursday constitutes only 38 percent of the planned size of the monster."

In a separate matter, Lador addressed suspicions against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. "This case has been going on for far too long, and the process is far slower than any of us would want," he said.

"Every examination of a criminal case is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle is sometimes similar to the ones that my grandchildren amuse themselves with - those of eight pieces - but sometimes it consists of thousands of pieces. In the Lieberman case, it's far more than 2,000 pieces, most of which are not in Hebrew and not necessarily in English, either. Okay? Well, this is one of the hardest puzzles to put together that I have encountered in recent years."

Lador described the challenges of investigating the case against the foreign minister. "In this case, too, we are not exactly experiencing the joy of having people tell us, 'I very much respect the Israeli investigative authorities, I want to tell you the whole truth and you are looking at someone who has not been influenced by anyone,'" he said. "This is an investigation in which it's hard to find the pieces to the puzzle over the course of years.

And it's not the first time: In investigations that were conducted against Lieberman in 1998-1999, we also couldn't get to the bottom of certain events." Haaretz has learned that the state prosecutor's office submitted a recommendation a few months ago that Lieberman be indicted, but not on bribery charges.

Lador also addressed two senior appointments that recently fell through - that of Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant to Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and that of police Maj. Gen. Yohanan Danino to police commissioner.

"There is all the difference in the world between the Danino case and the Galant case," he said. "In regard to Danino, no one imagines that there is any personal benefit involved; at most, this is about a professional decision of one kind or another that Danino made when he was head of the Investigations Branch.

"Almost all the decisions Danino made were discussed with me, and to the best of my understanding, they were correct. I felt for Danino when I saw the [media] carnival around him even before the facts had been clarified, as I feel for others who endure the same ordeal. The attorney general was absolutely right to allow the government to make the appointment. From our point of view, a delay was in no way justified."

With regard to the Turkel Committee, which approved Galant's appointment, Lador said he believed the committee did not have the tools to investigate and study the candidates."Regrettably, in our country the review apparatuses are not the most sophisticated," he said.

"The result is that a cabinet minister can be appointed instantly. Just two or three days passed from the moment the idea to appoint Prof. Daniel Friedmann minister of justice [in the government of Ehud Olmert] was conceived until the actual appointment, and he did not go through the [typical] process undergone by a candidate for meaningful office, such as in the case of the U.S. Senate [confirmation] hearings. It's possible to think about something similar that would be suitable here, a more sophisticated apparatus than exists now."

On the conviction of former president Moshe Katsav, Lador referred to the New Year's card the complainant known as A. sent to the president after the rape. "It's amazing to see how Katsav kept evidence that would serve him further down the road, should any of them, A. from the Tourism Ministry or any of the other women later, make allegations against him," he said.

Lador discussed a number of other highly-publicized affairs of the past year, among them, the case of journalist Anat Kamm, who, while serving in the bureau of the GOC Central Command, is alleged to have taken thousands of documents, some of them highly classified, and made them available to Haaretz journalist Uri Blau on computer disks. It was Lador who dictated the tough line in this case.