Ehud Olmert after verdict 370.
(photo credit: Gali Tibbon/Reuters)
One lesson the public has learned from the Jerusalem corruption case against
former prime minister Ehud Olmert, is that we are not all equal before the
The fallacy that there is “one law for all citizens” is easily
exposed as untrue from a quick survey of the courtroom at the Supreme Court in
the state’s appeal of Olmert’s overall acquittals.
Putting aside the huge
media presence, including four journalists from a single media outlet, the
composition of Supreme Court justices is highly unusual.
appeal to the Supreme Court on a criminal offense may only have one justice
ruling, sometimes three.
Here there are five. Why? Obviously because
Olmert is not a regular citizen, but a former prime minister.
If he is
going to get a special number of justices hearing the case – why not the maximum
of nine? Part of the answer could relate to the fact that nine justices only
preside over cases with overriding constitutional considerations, whereas this
case – while second to none politically – may not have constitutional
But part of the answer may be due to the fact that five
justices had to disqualify themselves because of close relationships with
How many normal citizens have close relationships with five
justices? The idea that Olmert would get special treatment was unequivocally
true, at least since the Jerusalem District Court’s sentencing decision – in
which it said it would give Olmert a much more lenient sentence because he had
been dethroned as prime minister by the case. (He was not convicted of the
specific allegations which led to him stepping down, only of a later arising
allegation.) Is it wrong for Olmert to get special treatment? The answer
probably depends on what the nature of the special treatment is and what the
Many would praise the idea that there are more justices
involved and that many justices will disqualify themselves, seeing them as
taking the issue of a former high state official seriously and following proper
Many would say the same regarding a sentence for financial
crimes: namely, that for non-violent crimes and even less serious financial ones
(compared to more serious crimes like bribery, for example), taking into
consideration a person’s service to the state in any position, let alone as
prime minister, makes sense.
Others might say the opposite: Examples
should be made of public servants and they should get maximum punishments, to
send a clear message to the public that no one is above the law.
there is probably little debate is regarding the verdict. It would be hard to
find serious commentators who would go against the idea that facts are facts,
the truth is the truth and that someone’s public position should change a
finding of guilty to innocent or viceversa.
Then again, the debate in the
US to about whether the 5-4 US Supreme Court vote that handed George W. Bush the
presidency in 2000 was influenced by ideology – and the politics in the balance
go unresolved to this day.
Thus, not only the Supreme Court ruling, but
how well it grounds it and how carefully it chooses its words will determine how
fairly its decision about Olmert’s fate will be perceived.