Should Ehud Olmert be al­lowed to re­turn to pub­lic life?

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - OBSERVATIO­NS - AVRA­HAM AVI-HAI

Surely you will un­der­stand that I would pre­fer to write about happy sub­jects – say, the ar­rival of spring. As if on cue, a day af­ter the mag­nif­i­cent Song of Songs was chanted in its spe­cial can­til­la­tion at Shab­bat and Passover ser­vices, a mourn­ing dove (tur­tle-dove) was coo­ing in my flower gar­den. That is the fa­mous “voice of the tur­tle” in the Song of Songs herald­ing spring. And then came the “singing of birds.” I think it was a black­bird. Thus that won­drous verse in Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs 2:12) was tak­ing place be­fore my eyes and ears. What a grand feel­ing of well-be­ing, of spring, of re­newal.

But then I heard on the ra­dio news that for­mer prime min­is­ter Ehud Olmert, who was re­leased from prison barely 10 months ago, has asked Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin for a par­don. This would wipe out the re­quire­ment that seven years must pass from his date of re­lease for the pe­riod of “moral turpi­tude” to end. If the pres­i­dent did par­don him, Olmert could en­ter pol­i­tics right away with a clean slate. At this point my Jewish heart was ripped in two: On the one hand I wanted to for­give him, and on the other I was un­easy about that. Be­low are some of the in­ner ar­gu­ments I ex­pe­ri­enced.

Our tra­di­tion tells us that when a per­son has been pun­ished by the author­i­ties he should be re­stored to his place as “your brother.” In ad­di­tion, I knew and liked Ehud. We were never friends, but friendly, though I did not want to see him as mayor of Jerusalem. I was right about that be­cause in no way could Olmert fill Teddy Kollek’s shoes. But there he was, and he used his role in Jerusalem as a step­ping-stone to the of­fice of prime min­is­ter.

Well, as in the movies, “He had paid his debt to so­ci­ety” and had done some good things. Maybe he should be pardoned.

THEN MY Jerusalemi­te heart took over. The mo­ment I laid my eyes on the Holy­land project – with its ugly, ugly ar­chi­tec­ture, those im­mense high-rises, and yet a more im­mense one stain­ing my city’s sky­line for who-knows-how-many decades to come – at that very mo­ment I knew money had changed hands. Whether I could prove that in court is not the point. One court said yes, the Supreme Court said no. In my mind, the mayor(s) who per­mit­ted such a blem­ish on a na­tional, nay, an in­ter­na­tional trea­sure – Jerusalem – are and will be eter­nally guilty of sin­ning against Jerusalem.

Then I went back to our sources once more. In the Book of Proverbs we are told: “He who covers up his crimes will not suc­ceed, but he who con­fesses and leaves [his evil ways] shall be granted mercy [that is, will be for­given] 28:13.

I have not read Ehud Olmert’s 900-page In Per­son, nor do I in­tend to. My time on Earth is too lim­ited for that. But I have read re­views which state that he reaf­firms his in­no­cence. I do not want to en­ter into the de­tails of the cases opened against him and which of them led to con­vic­tion. There is no need to do so. Ehud has a trail of too many ques­tion­able oc­cur­rences. He praised the judges for his ac­quit­tal from a num­ber of charges, a de­ci­sion some of us ques­tioned at the time. I find no record of praise for those who found him guilty of bribery.

The claim of a “coup” by con­spir­a­tors who wanted him out of of­fice echoes the claim be­ing now made by Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu again and again. The con­spir­a­tors vary with the cir­cum­stances. Ne­tanyahu’s line was orig­i­nated by Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni, the cor­rupt prime min­is­ter of Italy, who ac­cused the leftist me­dia and the lib­eral pros­e­cu­tors of want­ing to de­throne him by “un­demo­cratic” means.

The court of pub­lic opin­ion does not use the same ev­i­den­tiary pro­ce­dures or le­gal statutes as do the courts. Ehud, I am truly sorry. If you still be­lieve you are in­no­cent of ev­ery­thing, that means you feel no need to change your ways. I do not want to hit a man when he is down. You in­sist you have done noth­ing wrong. How­ever, the court and most ra­tio­nal peo­ple at­test to your guilt. Only if you fol­low the wis­dom of Proverbs, “Con­fess, and leave your evil ways,” should you be pardoned.

It was not easy to reach this con­clu­sion. I be­lieve Ehud Olmert did many good things. I cer­tainly do not have the stom­ach of a judge who is able to de­prive a fel­low hu­man of his or her free­dom. But it is, I be­lieve, a fair con­clu­sion.

Thanks for the good you have done, for our “friend­li­ness” and the cour­tesy shown to me in the past. But I am afraid I must say: “Do not re­turn to pol­i­tics.”

Com­ments: 2avra­[email protected]

Ehud, I am truly sorry. If you still be­lieve you are in­no­cent of ev­ery­thing, that means you feel no need to change your ways

(Marc Is­rael Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

FOR­MER prime min­is­ter Ehud Olmert reads his new book dur­ing an in­ter­view with ‘The Jerusalem Post Magazine’ last month.

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