The proceedings before the Supreme Court on the state’s appeal against former
prime minister Ehud Olmert’s acquittals in the Jerusalem corruption trial
concluded Thursday, the second day of arguments, with the state calling Olmert’s
conduct “blacker than black” and the defense saying his conduct was “not pretty,
but not criminal.”
Questions from the court indicated that Olmert’s fate
remained undecided, while predictions were that a final decision would be handed
down within a few months.
The second day of arguments focused more on
finer points relating to the Jerusalem District Court’s decision, which the
justices had asked about on the first day of arguments on Tuesday.
state said there were decisive contradictions between the story Olmert’s lawyers
presented at the Supreme Court and his testimony before the lower
In his testimony to the lower court, Olmert said he thought that
hundreds of thousands of dollars he received from Moshe Talansky were kept in a
bank account, whereas on Tuesday the state explained, Olmert’s lawyers said that
he decided to keep the funds in the secret safe of his confidante Uri Messer,
because his political supporters had requested anonymity.
The state said
there was no explanation other than fraud for the contradiction in Olmert’s
It argued that the Supreme Court should reverse the lower
court’s decision for misusing the beyond reasonable doubt standard on this issue
and entertaining wildly unlikely explanations, where the idea of a secret safe
was highly suspect and where Olmert gave completely contradictory
Next, the state claimed that those aspects of Moshe
Talansky’s testimony, which hurt their case, were due to his defending his own
name rather than being concerned about the truth.
The state said the
lower court had come to the same conclusion and that, as a result, Talansky’s
testimony, should be ignored by the Supreme Court.
The state went on to
say that even if Talansky was an ideological supporter of Olmert, that he
clearly gave Olmert money because the former prime minister was in a position of
power, where he could help advance Talansky’s own business opportunities, which
created an inherent conflict of interest.
The state compared Olmert’s
case to a past controversy involving President Shimon Peres when he received
funds from private persons. “Peres was in a gray area,” the state said. “Olmert
was blacker than black.”
The court accused the state of ignoring the
example presented by the defense of $23,000 that Talansky gave, Messer
temporarily held onto and that eventually was used for Olmert’s political
purposes (which would be legal).
The state had more than one argument in
response. First, it claimed that the defense had not decisively proved its claim
that the $23,000 was used for political purposes with documentary
Second, the state said that regardless of what the money was
used for, it did not change the fact that the rest of the hundreds of thousands
of dollars were used illegally, and not for political purposes. Particularly
since Messer generally opened bank accounts for holding onto political funds and
since Messer, in his testimony, failed to identify these funds as
Finally, the state said that in light of the funds not being
reported and instead being kept in a secret safe, and being cash from a private
person to a public servant, that providing one example was insufficient and the
defense should be forced to carry an overall burden of proof that all of the
cash was for political purposes.
The court then pressed the defense about
how they could claim that all of the money was political and that no law had
been broken under such suspicious circumstances. The defense responded that
Olmert’s actions were “not pretty, but not criminal.”
The comments from
the defense were much shorter, and asked by The Jerusalem Post why, a source
close to Olmert said that the judges had not posed many difficult questions for
them, that they had made their arguments already and implied a certain level of
confidence about the outcome of the case and the defense’s stronger position
being able to rely on the District Court’s decision.
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