FORMER PRIME MINISTER Ehud Olmert in court 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The first days of the Ehud Olmert trial brought out dramatic revelations which,
if true, expose an even more brazen, audacious and shameless underworld of
illegal wheeling and dealing within the government offices, with oversight of
construction and the Jerusalem municipality, than even was previously
The alleged systematic bribery lasted for over a decade,
spanning the tenures of two mayors, one of whom, also later served as prime
And yet, with earthshaking accusations being flung minute by
minute by the state’s key witness, officially known only as “SD” under a gag
order, at the former prime minister, former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski and
14 other high-profile defendants, the biggest bombshell of the week came outside
the confines of the Tel Aviv courtroom, from another court in
On the same day the Holyland trial started in Tel Aviv, the
Jerusalem court announced that it will render its verdict next week in Olmert’s
first corruption trial which includes the Rishon Tours affair, the cash
envelopes affair and allegations of systematic preferential treatment by Olmert
in his public capacity as a minister. Life has startling coincidences, but it is
unlikely that this was one of them.
A judge’s’ main concern generally is,
and must be, to conduct himself as any reasonable judge would, but the race to
make news about Olmert before the new Holyland saga takes over the public’s
imagination is on. There can also be no mistake about the massive consequences
that the verdict in the first Olmert case will have for the Holyland trial, even
though technically there is no connection.
If Olmert is convicted on July
10, the Holyland trial will still have significant importance. But Olmert will
already have been convicted. The bombshell that matters the most will already
have exploded. The nation will already have changed. The Holyland trial will
become the mere sequel to the real case which dethroned a former
There are concrete consequences for the state’s prosecution. It
must do its job based on professional considerations first. But a case of this
size is an investment. Will the state continue to task as many attorneys and
resources fulltime into the Holyland case, when the “glory” of the case is
already taken by the first Olmert conviction? The Holyland trial is a massive
cost for the state and it drains resources and manpower from other key cases.
The project was worth it to dethrone Olmert. It is a fantastical highprofile
case no matter what – but will it warrant the same continued investment? Like
campaigns, high-level legal battles – especially in fraud cases, which are
difficult to prove due to having to piece together complex puzzles – presenting
characters and dates in a way which makes a compelling overall picture, can be
heavily influenced by who is willing to pour in more resources to exhaust the
other side and research and expose their weaknesses.
The defense almost
always has some advantage in resources, but the balance can be completely tipped
and the state can start trying to shorten its case, dispense with witnesses and
try to suffice with proving its case less comprehensively based on a smaller
time and money investment. This often means more holes for the defense to
Judge Rozen may also be influenced by the ruling.
judge has already shown that to shorten what will already be an unwieldy
marathon of a trial, he is ready to bulldoze the dozens of defense attorneys
into holding back most of their customary procedural objections, and even some
Even before the Jerusalem court announcement on day
one, Rozen made a significant decision to effectively put off all objections to
the veracity of SD’s documents until a later date. Although he added that this
does not impact the weight he will give the documents, if the judge was feeling
doubtful, he could have allowed challenges to documents from the start. This
also would have killed the rhythm and flow of the state’s case. Instead, the
state has complete control over the initial momentum.
Rozen was already
prepared to sacrifice the defense attorneys’ maneuverability and to pressure
them into making shorter and less frequent arguments when he had before him the
potential to be the first judge to convict Olmert.
On the third day of
the trial, Rozen took the unorthodox time-saving measure of ordering that the
trial will run on parallel tracks: the morning with SD testifying, and the
afternoon with other state witnesses.
Rozen’s order came over the
objection of both the defense and the prosecution, an unusual combination, since
it will wreak havoc on their ability to play the case out on one contained front
at a time.
All of this will be impacted by a conviction.
increase the pressure on defense attorneys even more to drop objections,
witnesses and arguments in order to be done with the case.
But what if
Olmert is acquitted in the Jerusalem case? On one hand, the state prosecutor
will likely be more ready to invest in the case. The sought after conviction and
dethroning of Olmert will still be in play. On the other hand, the court may
also suddenly have a greater interest in drawing out the case.
decide to slow the trial and give the defense attorneys more slack to poke holes
in the state’s case.