Appeal against Olmert could cloud Knesset run

State notifies Olmert's legal team that it will be appealing both the verdict and the sentence in his corruption case.

EHUD OLMERT 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The State Attorney’s Office announced officially for the first time on Tuesday night that it was appealing the acquittals of former prime minister Ehud Olmert in the Jerusalem District Court corruption case to the Supreme Court.
Ending almost three months of speculation since his acquittals in July, the state notified the head of Olmert’s legal team, Eli Zohar, that it would be appealing both the verdict and the sentence in the case.
The decision could have tremendous repercussions on the upcoming elections, in which Olmert has considered taking part as a challenger to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The former prime minister was expected to make a decision about whether to run by early next week, following meetings with former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni on Wednesday and other key political figures.
Olmert’s family and the team that worked with him when he was prime minister are against him making a political comeback ahead of the January 22 election. His lawyers have reportedly also advised him not to run.
Former minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who has made two political comebacks following prolonged court cases, said that if he were in Olmert’s shoes, he would return to politics.
“I think he feels that his work for the public was artificially cut short, and that frustrates him,” Hanegbi said.
“There is no legal reason not to come back. He obviously feels he has a lot to contribute. We learned in the IDF’s General Reconnaissance Unit that if your parachute doesn’t open, you have to go back and jump again immediately to fix the situation rather than wait.”
If the state wins at the Supreme Court level, Olmert could be convicted of harsher crimes than he was at trial, and still end up going to jail.
Click for full JPost coverageClick for full JPost coverage
Whether the state wins or not, appealing in the midst of election season, which many will say influenced the state’s decision, could have a heavy impact on Olmert’s decision about whether to run.
A source close to Olmert called the State Attorney’s Office’s decision “revenge.”
“Time after time, they got rid of him, and now they’re trying again,” the source said. “They won’t forgive him for being found innocent. That’s what happens with the only body in Israel that does not have oversight.”
Olmert’s spokesman Amir Dan, meanwhile, called the decision “a personal and wicked witch hunt that was a waste of the public’s funds.”
Legal analysts said the fundamentals in the case point to the appeal ending in failure and Olmert merely reaping another greater victory over the state.
The primary issues upon which the state can appeal are issues of fact, and it is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court will reverse a three-panel court – including the president and vice president of the Jerusalem District Courts – on issues of fact, as opposed to issues of law.
Even as the state announced its intention to appeal, it is still hesitating to announce what its grounds will be, or if it will appeal on all of Olmert’s acquittals or only particular ones.
In one of the most significant corruption trials in the country’s history, the court found Olmert not guilty of wrongdoing in the Rishon Tours affair, the Talansky affair and allegations regarding misleading the state comptroller, only finding him guilty of a single charge in the Investment Center affair.
The indictment spanned events that allegedly took place during 2002-2006, first during Olmert’s tenure as mayor of Jerusalem and later when he served as a government minister.
The State Attorney’s Office is appealing the court’s decision on the Talansky affair. It may appeal on the Rishon Tours scandal as well.