An Appropriate Appeal

In a case like Olmert's, the prosecution not only has the right to appeal, but also the duty, so the appeal is a welcome development.

The State Prosecutor's Office made it official Tuesday. It is appealing the acquittal of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Talansky affair, in which Olmert was accused of improperly accepting cash envelopes from an American businessman. It's not yet clear if the prosecution will also appeal the acquittal in the Rishon Tours case, in which Olmert was accused of double-billing travel expenses. An appeal is expected on the lenient suspended sentence for Olmert's conviction for breach of trust, which was not considered a crime of moral turpitude.

These steps are necessary because the district court is not authorized to make a ruling that is binding in other cases. If the prosecution had forgone the appeal to the Supreme Court, it would have acquiesced to the judges' astounding findings and failed to act against corruption, which included the passing of cash envelopes to public servants - elected and otherwise. Acquiescence would have made the verdicts final, which would have been an abandonment of good governance, allowing anyone committing breach of trust to plead for mercy, relying on the precedent of the Olmert case.

Criticism of the prosecution may be in order regarding the appeal. The appeal is well-founded, but one could criticize the drawn-out deliberations over filing it, the defensive position the prosecution was pushed into, and the fact the public debate was left to Olmert's supporters and foes of the prosecution. They tried to portray proper, professional procedure as an act of personal vengeance.

The appeal should have been signed and submitted the moment the lenient suspended sentence was announced. While the prosecution dawdled, Knesset elections got moved up. And Olmert tried to mislead the judges in depicting himself as someone with no intention of returning to politics. Then he looked into the possibility of running for the Knesset, despite his conviction, despite the bench's comments on his conduct and despite the pending criminal proceedings in another matter, the Holyland case.

Castigation of the prosecution by Olmert's supporters including rage at State Prosecutor Moshe Lador should be condemned entirely. It is designed to besmirch the heads of law enforcement and back up the notion that the appeal stemmed from personal animosity rather than considerations of state. It's good the prosecution did not surrender to such a transparent tactic.

It's hard to believe that Olmert would not have used his right to appeal if he had been convicted unanimously on all the charges against him. In a case like Olmert's, the prosecution not only has the right to appeal, but also the duty, so the appeal is a welcome development.

Ehud Olmert - Olivier Fitoussi - 5.9.2012
Olivier Fitoussi