Opinion

Who’s Afraid of Ehud Olmert?

With all due desire to treat Olmert like any other prisoner, it’s clear to everyone that he is not

The authorities’ tormenting of Ehud Olmert is intolerable, almost inhuman. So is the schadenfreude. True, Olmert doesn’t need me to defend him; he’s surrounded by PR agents and the best lawyers. Yet in the end he is a human being, a prisoner who is serving out his sentence — and a former prime minister.

I make no pretense of addressing the legal issues behind his current troubles. But it is wrong to cast as an enemy a person who, as prime minister, tried to correct the course of the ship of state; who was willing to face reality head-on and to take unpopular measures in order to create hope for the generations to come. As prime minister, he neither feared nor incited against the media. He contended with questions of life and death: when to send soldiers to the front, when to retaliate and when to hold fire.

Is there anyone among his persecutors who can honestly say, free of any hidden interests, that this man is a danger to national security? Suppose he did have in his cell classified documents to aid him with the book he was writing. Is that supposed to affect whether or not he will be released on parole before completing his sentence? And what does possessing classified documents have to do with his prison conduct? Why cannot the issues of his discharge date and the documents be addressed separately? Is it logical to cancel a prisoner’s furlough on the basis of intelligence, when neither the prisoner nor his lawyers know anything about it?

Why was there a delay in admitting Olmert to a hospital, or at least in having him examined by his own physician, who has been treating him for years? This can only be understood as needless harassment. Who ordered the entire system to kick this man, who is already so far down? Why was the entire system briefed against him so intensely, as if he were a nuclear spy? Who are the people who can’t stand the possibility of their name being immortalized in Olmert’s book? Who are the people who are so afraid of someone writing about their role as an integral part of the system, even if is in a critical, not especially flattering, way?

Yes, Olmert is still a prisoner, one of thousands. True, they’re all people whose freedom was taken away from them; they are all suffering from loneliness and from conditions in prison. And yet, the crucifixion in the town square of this particular prisoner smells like persecution. As if backstage there’s another, parallel, play going on, which the public can’t see and whose director and producers demand that the hero be made to suffer more and more.

And so with all due desire to treat Olmert like any other prisoner, it’s clear to everyone that he is not. And if the court has ruled that he must be considered an exception and must be treated more harshly because of his high status, he may also be considered an exception in the opposite direction, certainly when it comes to matters like seeing his personal physician. That should only be the most serious threat to the impartiality of the justice system.