THE HOLYLAND VERDICT May 12, 2014, was the day former prime minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to six years in prison for his conviction on two charges of bribery in the Holyland corruption affair. “A public servant who accepts bribes is akin to a traitor,” Judge David Rozen said in his opening statements, which were read in the Tel Aviv District Court – and repeated on a loop in both national and international media. Announcing (what many commentators considered a severe) sentence, Rozen added that the defendants (indicted along with Olmert, the verdict also addressed former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski, who was sentenced to seven years, and the city’s engineer during their both terms, Uri Sheetrit, who got six years) deserved lengthy punishments to help deter future corruption. Two months earlier, in March, Olmert was found guilty of accepting bribes when he served as mayor of Jerusalem, in exchange for helping developers to enlarge the Holyland Park residential project (after it had already been rezoned from hotels to residential towers, against the will of most of the residents in the neighborhood). Olmert was also fined NIS 1 million.It was not the first time that the former prime minister had been brought to trial, but he always emerged unscathed from these legal scrapes. This was the first time that he was found guilty and sentenced. Undoubtedly, it was a surprise – for the media and the political sphere – and a very nasty one for him. As for Lupolianski, who in addition to his sentence is seriously ill, a sense of genuine sadness was shared by many. The judge, however, was clear – whether the bribes reached private accounts (Olmert’s) or a charity association (Yad Sarah, in the case of Lupolianski), both were found guilty and had to pay for their crime. Meanwhile, the two have appealed their verdict to the Supreme Court and as a result, the start of their prison time has been postponed. But the message was received loud and clear at Safra Square – it certainly reinforced Barkat’s position, as a candidate who ran on the “Mr. Clean” ticket – and enables him to enforce anti-bribery rules. He still has to shorten bureaucratic procedures to unclog the construction permits department, one of the worst offenders under Olmert.