What happened to the Holyland trial – the greatest corruption trial of all time
against former prime minister Ehud Olmert and 15 other major defendants?
this massively important case get forgotten? It has been out of news for months.
Is a former prime minister on trial not news anymore?
First, the Liberman effect
has pushed it out of the news pages somewhat. Liberman (was) a current foreign
minister and major player in Israeli politics.
Olmert was a former player
– which brings us to point number two.
Olmert’s decision to drop out of
the running pushed the trial out of the news. As long as he was a potential
comeback kid who could displace Netanyahu, his case had immediate massive
importance, besides his former title.
But there is more.
the implications of the case are huge, the actual day-to-day of the case is
mind-numbingly boring, and impossible to follow for anyone other than lawyers
and accountants who have attended every hearing, four times a week, for the last
The trial gets into the super nitty-gritty of how development
approvals work for residential units, gardens and sidewalks, trying to trace
checks and alleged bribes between at least 16 defendants and their many
associates over some 15 years.
Famous lawyers and senior Judge David
Rozen are scratching their heads trying to figure out if they agree or disagree
with the fantastical fraud story being told by S.D. (as he is referred to under
a gag order), the main state witness; and the incredibly complex mathematics
that it takes to follow the alleged bribery trail.
In S.D.’s narrative,
untold numbers of items marked “loans” and “salary” on official balance sheets
were covers for bribes and kickbacks.
On top of that, while the other 15
witnesses are major personalities in their own right, like former Jerusalem
mayor Uri Lupolianski, the real headlines only get made when the case gets into
Sitting next to Olmert’s representative who was texting most of
the time and doing his best to stay awake, I asked him when Olmert’s attorney
would start to cross-examine S.D. He hesitated, looked despairing, then
volunteered vaguely: Hopefully in another month or so.
In the famous
lawyer movie A Few Good Men
, cross-examination ends with lines like “you can’t
handle the truth!” Here, a lawyer reads an old transcript for 10 minutes to
remind the witness what he told police a year ago and then asks a question –
after which the judge asks the lawyer to restate and explain his question
because he got lost in the numbers. Next, S.D. gives a long, rambling answer and
no one understands whether they agree or disagree with his calculations
regarding the alleged bribes.
In the middle, S.D., exasperated at not
being understood by anyone, says that everyone should just look at a particular
document that explains everything.
Everyone then spends 10 minutes
looking through boxes covering half of the courtroom floor, and through
innumerable PDF scans of documents to find what S.D. is referring to.
of the highlights of the hearing is when the judge makes a ruling.
decides that all of the questions that one of the ancillary defendant’s
attorneys has been asking S.D. for the last half-hour were irrelevant and cannot
be used in proving any issues in the case.
But Sunday’s hearing, in which
Morris Talansky will be guest-starring, is a reminder that this case, even if
only once every few months, does still have mammoth implications involving some
Someday, Olmert himself may even get questioned
Until then, most of the dozens of journalists from
the media pool will be covering other issues, leaving one extremely committed
News1 reporter as the sole patient member of the media to track the entire case.