Analysis: Holyland case headed for a knockout?
A one-two punch from Ehud Olmert seems to have put the Holyland case on the ropes.
Ehud Olmert after verdict. Photo: Gali Tibbon/Reuters
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s one-two punch against the state’s main
witness and the documents he has produced in the Holyland case may have wrapped
up another acquittal for Olmert.
Short of a knock-out when the state
cross-examines Olmert, or some massively convincing evidence from a source
besides its main witness – referred to only as “S.D.” under a gag order – the
state’s case against Olmert is on the ropes after this week’s
On Sunday, Olmert’s lawyer, Roi Belcher, in dramatic fashion
unveiled a list in S.D.’s diary of names of people who had received
Only Olmert’s name was not on the list.
Belcher set S.D.
up to maximize damaging his credibility with the judge.
asked S.D. who the most important of the people he had bribed was – to which
S.D. responded that it was Olmert.
Next, Belcher asked S.D. if he made a
list of those who accepted bribes, who would be at the top of the list? To which
S.D. responded that the most important person, Olmert, would be at the
Next, Belcher got S.D. to repeatedly state that he had never made
such a list.
Belcher then caught S.D. blindsided, unveiling the diary,
which apparently S.D. did not recall and which the state had not known existed,
but which S.D. did not deny that was written in his handwriting.
possibly the most damaging part of the state’s case was S.D.’s bewildered,
confused and paranoid-sounding counterattack. S.D. lashed out at the defense,
essentially accusing it, or some third party, of stealing his diary from an
office space that he had inhabited.
When asked why he was accusing the
defense specifically of “theft” and ignoring other less severe possibilities, he
essentially said that the diary was his, that he had not given it to the defense
and that meant that if the defense secretly had the diary, it must have stolen
it from him.
The defense then played out an entirely different scenario,
in which S.D. may have apparently left large amounts of documents to his former
landlord without moving them because of issues of cost or inability to store
them, without realizing that some of the items, like the diary, might be
S.D. tried to refute this narrative, but the damage was done,
as it showed the judge that S.D.’s state of mind in analyzing issues seemed to
be to rush to the most criminal explanation while ignoring less harmful
To the extent that Olmert is arguing that his interactions
with S.D. and any money passed back and forth was never quid pro quo, but was in
the form of voluntary gifts to people connected to Olmert, such as his former
bureau chief, Shula Zaken, were misunderstood by S.D. as bribes – this is a
devastating line of attack.
Olmert’s legal team can show before the
court’s eyes that S.D.’s lens for viewing Olmert’s actions were seemingly as
paranoid and blind to other less nefarious possibilities as they were with the
issue of how the defense acquired the diary.
But that was not even the
biggest blow the state’s case against Olmert suffered this week.
true that the judge could look at the list and conclude that it proves S.D., in
his heart of hearts, did not think that he bribed Olmert and concocted the whole
story at a later date.
But even if the list hurts S.D.’s credibility,
there are other explanations for why Olmert might not have been on that
particular list – maybe S.D., in some ironic paranoia did not want to write
anything even in his diary about the then-prime minister until he was sure he
was going to point the finger at him with the authorities – and Judge David
Rozen could still ignore all of S.D.’s testimony and convict Olmert on the
strength of documentary evidence of bribes having been given.
Tuesday the hammer fell on that line of attack as well.
For the first
time, the defense relatively convincingly proved that S.D. had forged
documents, including with his own handwriting, which he had given to the state
and the state had submitted to the court to specifically prove the case against
If the state’s last stronghold of “evidentiary purity” was the
humongous stacks of documentary evidence of bribes being given, this attack blew
a gaping hole through the center of the fortress.
S.D. had previously admitted to forging documents in a separate civil case
against other defendants besides Olmert, prior to the criminal proceeding. Other
defendants had also proved that S.D. had forged documents presented in the
criminal proceedings against them.
But this was the first proof of
forging documents against Olmert, removing any chance S.D. could claim that
while he had forged documents and lied in the past, everything against Olmert
now was truthful.
The document itself was somewhat innocuous. It was
supposed to prove that Olmert demanded that S.D. and his Holyland project
boss, Hillel Cherny, switch to using Olmert’s accounting firm, Barzilai, to make
approvals for Holyland smoother.
This could have continued to show a
pattern of Olmert asking for all sorts of favors for himself and his associates,
including bribes, from S.D. for his help smoothing over legal and zoning
problems for the Holyland project.
But Belcher showed that the document,
which S.D. claimed was sent in 1994, included a telephone number for one
of S.D.’s companies, Amior – which did not exist until 1996. The 1996 telephone
number was seven digits long, whereas the 1994 telephone number was only six
S.D. gave an odd explanation, suggesting that the page had been
photocopied on a different piece of stationary at a later date. But he also gave
several different contradictory answers that probably did not earn him points
for credibility with the court.
This could prove to the court how far
S.D. was willing to go either to “spice up” or to completely invent the
allegations against Olmert, including for innocuous documents that were at most
supposed to be indirect proof of Olmert’s alleged pattern of illegal
The court could still decide to throw out just this particular
document and not others produced by S.D. The state could still blow away Olmert
on cross-examination and the court could weight documentary evidence from others
besides S.D. as having more value for the case as a whole than the problems the
defense appears to have highlighted in the state’s case.
But when the
court told Olmert’s lawyers they should wrap up their case faster essentially
because other defendants are in deeper water than Olmert is, it was a
not-so-subtle hint that the case against Olmert is on the ropes.