Former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s legal team may have made an extraordinarily clever last-minute tactical maneuver deciding to emphasize his “mayorness” instead of his “prime ministerness” in his sentencing hearing for bribery in the Holyland trial.
It had been widely expected that former Mossad head Meir Dagan would testify on his behalf as a character witness, describing his contributions to enhancing the country’s national security.
Maybe the most powerful character witness one could imagine.
Until they canceled him Monday at the last second, which only became known when he did not show up in court.
Why did they drop him? It finally became clear on Tuesday, that Olmert’s legal team decided that he could get a lighter sentence by emphasizing that during the Holyland events he was “just” mayor of Jerusalem and not yet prime minister.
In some of the counterintuitive logic that prevails in some legal opinions, higher officials like ministers don’t get less prison time for their contributions to the state, but more prison time since they must serve as an example.
His lawyer Eli Zohar identified a line of lesser sentences for mayors as opposed to for past ministers and told the court that, if Olmert received any prison sentence, it must be similar to the mayors.
This outweighed whatever speculative general benefit Dagan could have provided.
But Olmert himself did not stick to this strategy.
In deciding to dramatically retake the witness stand and thunder away at the court for five-straight minutes about how wrong its conviction of him was – he took privileges that only a prime minister could take.
Most of the other prominent defendants, including former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski, said little or kept it low key.
Whether the tactical focus on Olmert as mayor will pay off, or whether his powerful and nearly unprecedented denouncement of the court will evaporate any vision other than of Olmert the prime minister, remains to be seen and could be key in determining his punishment.