State Attorney Moshe Lador defended the decision to indict former prime minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday and refused to heed calls that he resign after Olmert was acquitted on the central corruption charges against him in the Rishon Tours affair, the Talansky affairs and allegations regarding misleading the State Comptroller. He was found guilty only of the minor crime of breach of trust in the Investment Center affair.
Olmert confidants and MKs from the Kadima faction which he formerly headed had attacked Lador and the State Attorney's Office, accusing him of making a standing Israeli prime minister resign on charges that ended up being largely baseless.
Lador said that he had to serve the indictments given the facts of the case. He pointed out that Olmert was convicted of breach of trust, "a very serious crime."
The State Attorney rejected the charges that he should not have indicted Olmert because the move lead to the fall of an Israeli government and Olmert's resignation. He said their was "no basis" to the claims that the State's Attorney Office caused the ouster of Olmert. He stated that political considerations should not influence legal decisions.
Lador rejected the notion that Olmert's acquittal in two of the affairs constituted a failure of the State Attorney's Office, saying a situation in which the court and the state see an issue differently is fully acceptable.
He added that it was "dangerous" to suggest that he as State Attorney should have to pay a personal price for a partial conviction.
While politicians on the left and right slammed Olmert following the acquittal, those closest to him – friends and Kadima MKs – blamed the prosecution for negligence.
“Some say Lador should resign, but I think he should commit suicide,” Olmert’s close friend Amnon Dankner said on Tuesday. “In Japan, he would have to harikiri over something like this. He made an Israeli government fall, a prime minister resign, and changed the lives of millions of Israelis – in my opinion for the worse.”
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz congratulated Olmert on his acquittal and praised his service to the state as a Kadima leader and prime minister.
Meanwhile, Kadima MKs sought ways to avenge Olmert’s name from within the Knesset.
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) demanded that the Knesset State Control Committee review the State Attorney’s Office’s conduct in Olmert’s case.
“When the State Attorney’s work is done unprofessionally and hurriedly, shaking up the whole country for no reason and removing a prime minister, it is important to make sure there were no political motives [behind the] indictments,” Hasson stated.
Knesset State Control Committee chairman Uri Ariel (National Union) agreed that the State-Attorney’s Office must be examined, saying today is its Yom Kippur and there were serious oversights.
At the same time, Ariel called Olmert’s conviction of breach of trust a “black stain on Israel and a crisis in the public’s faith in its leadership and elected representatives.”
MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) floated the idea of resubmitting his “French Bill,” which is similar a law in France that forbids the prosecution of an elected official while he or she is in office.
Schneller proposed the bill during the previous Knesset, but was told by the Justice Ministry that they would block it.
“I hope that this time, the Justice Ministry will show some modesty and understand that the good of the country comes before the need to hold a trial,” the Kadima MK said. “Stability is important.”
Manhigut Yehudit leader Moshe Feiglin also accused the State-Attorney’s Office of misusing its power, saying that “bureaucrats terrorize prime ministers and elected ministers, leading them to resign. This contradicts the idea of democracy.”
Feiglin, like Schneller, said a law should be passed giving sitting ministers immunity from investigations and trials.
Shas released a statement that it seeks to “strengthen former prime minister Ehud Olmert and his family following the great suffering they underwent in recent years.”
“For the first time in Israel, a prime minister was convicted of breach of trust,” opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich pointed out. “The police, the State-Attorney’s Office and the courts must continue treating prime ministers, presidents and others with political and economic power as they do with regular citizens.”
According to Yechimovich, Israelis should be proud of the Olmert conviction, because justice is done with the most powerful citizens, as well as others.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said that the former prime minister’s conviction on even one count is “very serious,” and he must stay away from politics for the rest of his life.
“The verdict describes a corrupt politician that used power in order to make him and his friends rich,” she added. “His acquittal of crimes does not mean he is a moral person with values, and we should not try to launder corrupt behavior.”
MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud) scoffed at “the media and [Olmert’s] friends who are celebrating as though he won the Nobel Prize,” pointing out that the former prime minister was still convicted of breach of trust.
“Some said Lador should kill himself, but it looks like shame committed suicide today,” he quipped.
“Everyone surrounding former prime minister Olmert continues to be convicted, while he continues to evade convictions,” MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said. “The time has come to punish the person who stands at the top of the pyramid of corruption and not his messengers.”
MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) said that Olmert’s acquittal on most of the corruption charges “encourages corruption in the government, Knesset and local authorities, because it was proven they can escape convictions, and crime pays.”
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!