Think about it: That was the week that was

The Holyland affair saw 10 of the 13 persons who stood trial found guilty on corruption and bribery charges including former prime minister Ehud Olmert.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert enters court prior to conviction in Holyland trial, March 31, 2014 (photo credit: DROR EYNAV/POOL)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert enters court prior to conviction in Holyland trial, March 31, 2014
(photo credit: DROR EYNAV/POOL)
‘That was the week that was” (or TW3) was a TV program broadcast first on the BBC and later on NBC in the early and mid-1960s, which was presented by the late David Frost. The program offered a satirical version of the news of the previous week.
As last week drew to an end I couldn’t help wondering what TW3 would have made of the insane congestion of news items that seem to be drowning us. It would certainly have been much more sophisticated, profound and funny than our own Channel 22’s Eretz Nehederet, though in the final reckoning it is all rather sad, and not at all funny.
With regards to the two main items last week – the judgment in the Holyland affair, and the apparent collapse of the “peace negotiations” – I must admit that I was relieved and even pleased, though in neither case has the last word been said.
Let us begin with the Holyland affair, in which 10 of the 13 persons who stood trial were found guilty on corruption and bribery charges. One of the 10 was former prime minister Ehud Olmert. The reason I was relieved in this affair was that at least in Olmert’s case the borderline between institutional corruption and criminal corruption is a narrow one, and so far in all his trials slick lawyers had managed to get him off the hook with the insulting defense “three monkeys” defense: “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” The problem is that this sentence, issued on March 30, was based largely on circumstantial evidence and “common sense,” and might be revoked on appeal to the Supreme Court, unless the state attorney’s office can present some substantial supporting evidence.
What is most infuriating about this case is that even though one cannot claim Olmert is a major crook, or that he holds illegal bank accounts in Switzerland containing billions of dollars, he is both one of generators and an upshot of the corrupting relations between tycoons and politicians that seem to have overrun our society and system of government, to the detriment of all the rest of us. The symbolism of Olmert’s sentence is thus extremely important, even though many say that the cancer is already so deep and widespread that it will not be swept away so easily or so fast.
Two less prominent news items last week, coming from the US, are in my opinion directly related to this one. The first is that the US Supreme Court declared on April 2 that regulations which limit the aggregate amount donors can give to electoral campaigns in a single election cycle are unconstitutional. The second concerns the “interviews” billionaire Sheldon Adelson held last week with several potential Republican presidential candidates for the 2016 presidential elections, toward his deciding which of them to support with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars (for the time being the verdict is “none of them”).
None of this would be possible in Israel, where the concept of unlimited “soft money” contributions to election candidates is simply ruled out. Or is it? The fact that Adelson can finance a free daily pro-Netanyahu newspaper (Yisrael Hayom), without it being considered illegal under the existing Party Financing Law, is the reality behind a private members’ bill which was recently submitted by MK Eitan Kabel (Labor), with the support of MKs from both coalition and opposition parliamentary groups.
The bill does not mention the real reason for its submission, but rather speaks of the ruinous damage which freebies can cause the rest of the print media.
If this bill does manage to turn into law, it might contribute on the margins to the battle against the phenomenon mentioned above in relation to the Holyland affair.
But now to last week’s second major news item – the apparent collapse of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative. As a self-proclaimed lefty I ought to be distraught at the news that the indefatigable Kerry seems to be at his wit’s end because, in his own words, he cannot make the two horses (or are they mules?), Netnayhau and Abbas, drink from the trough.
But I am not distraught because what has been going on for the past year is not peace negotiations, but petty bickering on what price should be paid by the two sides to enable negotiations for the sake of negotiations to continue.
Neither side is apparently ready for a real peace settlement, involving a “painful compromise,” and the game seems to be how to gain the maximum, or lose the minimum in the process of keeping the Americans happy.
I must admit that I am dead against the release of convicted Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands and unclear future plans, just in order to avoid freezing construction activities in the West Bank, and starting to prepare for the eventual dismantlement of settlements in territories that will invariably form part of a viable Palestinian state, if and when it is established within the framework of a peace settlement.
Entering Jonathan Pollard into this cynical equation is immoral and sickening.
I have written on numerous occasions that I have no idea whether Netanyahu is really willing to reach a settlement with the Palestinians on the basis of a two-state-solution, or whether deep down in his heart he actually supports the Danon-Elkin-Akunis- Levin-Hotovely coalition in his own party, which is openly struggling against such a solution.
And what does he think of the open efforts of Constitution Law and Justice Committee chairman Dudu Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu) last week to stop all attempts to apply the transparency regulations to the budget of the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization, which is used to channel unaccounted-for funds for settlement activities in the West Bank? And just a reminder: the request to apply the transparency regulations came from no other than Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is also the hapless Israeli negotiator in the current negotiations make-believe.
At least she means well. And then again, there is Housing and Construction Minister Uri Uriel.
In my opinion at this point of time the Americans should simply leave Netanyahu to contend with the consequences of a status quo policy, including letting the Palestinians sign various international treaties and join various international organizations as a virtual state, letting the international community gradually impose all sorts of boycotts on Israel, letting the festering frustrations of the Palestinians in the West Bank ripen into a third intifada and/or the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. Then let us see what happens.
It might seem a little forced to associate what is happening in the political process to the most recent news regarding African refugees, who are being tricked by the Israeli authorities with false promises into traveling to Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia with one-way tickets, but the two are connected.
They are connected because the way the government is contending with the negotiations with the Palestinians and with the African refugees comes from the same place of total disregard for the fact that we are allegedly part of the enlightened international community, which recognizes that Palestinians under occupation and African refugees with nowhere to go have basic rights under international law. The refusal to recognize these rights for whatever reason – national, religious or racial – is little more than narrow- minded chauvinism, bigotry and racism under various self-righteous guises, that discredits the true spirit of Judaism as expounded by the prophets, and of Herzlian Zionism.
So, that was the week that was, and hopefully this week will be a little less eventful and thought provoking.
Perhaps we should all take advantage of the heat wave, and go down to the beach to cool off.
The writer is a retired Knesset employee.