Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert leaves Tel Aviv District Court, May 13, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The play seemed to have a lot of the same cast. The smile was the same smile. But the finale turned out differently than it did almost years ago.
The “star” was still Ehud Olmert, who entered court with the same confident smile he had worn on the day of his verdict in July 2012.
He hugged and high-fived many of the same people and entered the courtroom surrounded by much of the same entourage of lawyers and public relations staff.
The legal and factual background were nearly identical.
The setting for the drama, the main courtroom for the Jerusalem District Court, was exactly the same.
The state prosecutor Uri Korb, Olmert’s principal nemesis stood across from him brandishing the same zeal to wreak righteous vengeance upon corruption he views as eating away at the state’s core.
Two of the three judges, Jacob Zavan and Moshe Sobol, were even the same.
The trial two-and-a-half years ago ended with Olmert strutting to a massive press conference after his acquittal, exclaiming that he could “stand tall” having vanquished the frivolous crusade against him, and implying he might be on his way back to the prime minister’s chair in the late 2013 elections.
But on Monday, the star fell and fell hard.
Olmert’s mouth was gaping open with his eyes glazed over as he heard the verdict of a unanimous conviction.
Why was he so shocked? Wasn’t the writing on the wall from the whole country having heard all of his dirty secrets played out on the radio that he had lied to the court in the original trial and conspired with other witnesses to prevent the truth from coming out? First, he seems not to have been ready for the change in casting for one of the three judges.
Where it seems Moussia Arad, who retired in 2013 after leading the first Olmert trial panel, had been a relative fan of Olmert’s, her replacement, Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman, announced that she would have convicted him the first time – even before the Shula Zaken tapes emerged.
Wait one minute – Zaken tapes? Ah, yes, we seemed to have left out the most important character in the play’s second run; who was part of the entourage during his acquittal, but who ditched this performance.
She used to get the biggest and longest hug, because she was saving Olmert from all of the evidence that only she could produce against him.
Zaken, Olmert’s top and closest aide for 30 years, was also the one who turned the tables on him after his lawyers cut her loose in another case, which eventually led to his downfall.
It appears Olmert never really took Zaken seriously, and expected that, after what many would acknowledge was her inconsistent performance on the witness stand, the judges would not either.
And so, the final run of the play ended with the true star and victor watching in comfort from afar, as Olmert, still in shock, exited stage left to avoid the press conference, likely counting the days until his next big show – which may be behind bars.