In the largest corruption trial in Israeli history, over the taking of bribes and misuse of power in the multi-million-dollar Holyland real estate scheme in Jerusalem, former PM Ehud Olmert and 9 other co-conspirators, including former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, were found guilty in the giving and taking of bribes. Three other co-defendents were acquitted in the Tel Aviv District Court under Justice Rosen.
The huge Holyland development is an eyesore overlooking Jerusalem and there is no doubt that many legal barriers to their construction and completion were skirted and bent by the giving and taking of bribes. They were built while Olmert was Mayor of Jerusalem and when he became a Minister in the Government, but before he became PM. Olmert has been under indictment in 5 separate cases for the past 5 years. He was acquitted in one, the double charging scheme for his travel expenses, not because he was innocent, but because there was insufficient evidence of his involvement. His former aide Shula Zaken, who was a co-defendent in several trials, at the last minute agreed to give evidence against her former boss by revealing telephone conversations that she had taped. But, the Judge did not bite, but allowed the current trial to end before he will consider her new evidence.
What does this trial and its verdict prove, that there is corruption in Israel? Everyone knew that. That there are corrupt politicians, everyone knew that too, In fact, Olmert had the reputation of being a corrupt politician for a long time. He was an opportunist, since he quit the Likud party to join PM Sharon in Kadima just before he had his stroke, thus Olmert succeeded him. But, this trial and verdict prove additionally that no-one in Israel is above the law and that the courts and prosecutors, although sometimes they seem too eager to bring cases against politicians, were in this case vindicated. Note that there are no juries in Israeli trials, a bench of Judges consider the evidence and render the verdict. The judicial system in Israel is strong, active and independent. Meanwhile former PM Ehud Olmert is headed for jail.
Many surrounding countries should learn from the Israeli experience. There is corruption everywhere, and in fact this case pales in comparison to the kind of money that has changed hands in the Palestinian areas. Not only did Yasir Arafat take billions of dollars, and use it to foster his own power and to support terrorism, but his successors such as Pres. Abbas are equally corrupt. The problem is that Palestinian society is almost feudal in its culture and it is expected that the chief or boss will control the funds and dole them out to his supporters. But, what is worse is that that the EU and US know this, know that billions of dollars that they are giving the PA disappear into the pockets of the leadership, and do nothing about it. Sure they ask for more transparency, but they never get it. The only Palestinian politician who was considered honest was Salem Fayyad and he was sidelined by Abbas. The Palestinians could have an independent judiciary only in the fantasies of western liberals.