Judge in Olmert Appeal: ‘Why Should He Get Discount?’

Supreme Court Justice Hendel questions former prime minister’s request for concurrent sentences.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Supreme Court during deliberations on the Holyland case, on December 29, 2015.
Emil Salman

The Supreme Court held a hearing Tuesday to discuss former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s appeal of his verdict and sentence in the Morris Talansky case, in which he was convicted of aggravated fraud.

Olmert’s attorney asked the justices, even if they reject his appeal regarding the verdict, to allow his sentence to be served concurrently with the 18-month sentence he received in the Holyland affair. Justice Neal Hendel expressed surprise at the request for concurrent sentences, asking: “Why should he get some sort of discount? He was guilty of two separate transgressions.”

At the hearing Olmert turned to the judges and said: “It’s no secret that I’m subjectively feeling that I, my five children, my wife and 11 grandchildren are being persecuted. When I was first interrogated, under conditions set by the prosecution and against my consent, I felt that I was being repeatedly attacked by a machine that hurls tennis balls rapidly during a training session. I’ve felt this way for 10 years. I don’t know what is legally defined as delay of justice. I can tell you it’s not easy. I can hardly describe the emotional costs.

“I’m not arguing or appealing now, not in relation to things that were said by the prosecution and certainly not by the court, which I’ve respected my entire life and in all my roles, but I am speaking of only one thing: how in all this complexity one weighs the human, the personal aspect, and for this let what the prosecutor said in her decency suffice.”

At the beginning of his statement the former prime minister said: “I only want to speak about the penalty I want to mention the many years of service in which I was not personally enriched. I devoted days and nights to assisting individuals, groups and institutions, in matters that affect our quality of life and which benefited many people, some of whom testified in court. It’s been said that whoever saves but one soul is like a person who saves an entire world.”

Olmert was convicted in the Talansky case in March 2015, after the Supreme Court allowed state prosecutors, in an exceptional ruling, to return the case to a renewed hearing at the Jerusalem District Court, following the submission of new evidence which included tapings and diaries provided by Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken. In light of this new evidence the court changed its verdict and convicted Olmert of fraud, fraudulently obtaining benefits and breach of trust, carried out by giving Zaken salary supplements worth tens of thousands of dollars taken from a secret cash fund that was kept by Olmert’s friend attorney Uri Messer and not reported to the state comptroller as required.

In the initial trial Olmert was acquitted. The judges ruled then, in the absence of Zaken’s evidence, that it was not proven that this money was used for Olmert’s private needs and not for political ones.

Olmert’s attorney Eyal Rozovsky said at the second trial that Zaken’s evidence was inadmissible. “The judges said that she was a proven liar but that this did not invalidate the evidence. How can the behavior of someone who taped and deleted and lied during the entire trial not be important?” asked Rozovsky.