By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
On February 15, 2016 history was made in Israel that many of us would rather not have witnessed: Israel’s eighth prime minister has begun his 19-months old prison sentence for corruption and related charges. Despite his many other achievements, Ehud Olmert will probably be remembered not for the good he may have done to the country bur for his humiliation he has suffered.
To some who have known him this may not come as a surprise. Many years ago I hosted Israeli politicians in Toronto and I clearly recall one of them telling me of Olmert’s inclination to corruption. At the time I put it down to the envy of a rival, but now I think that there was more to it. And I seems that journalists and others have known about if for a long time.
Olmert is not alone. There’s a photograph of his cabinet several members of which have spent time in jail. He’s is sitting next to President Katzav who’ll soon have served his many years in prison for rape. The then minister of finance also came to do time for corruption and related crimes as has the then minister of the interior who’s now back in government – in charge of the same ministry. I think there were also others in that photograph, but I no longer remember their names.
All this is, of course, cause for sadness and dismay that people elected to high office should behave in this way. But it’s also cause for celebration that Israel is a country where the rule of law prevails and nobody is above it.
Not even the current prime minister and his wife can escape the law. Recently the major domo in their official residence in Jerusalem and their private getaway on the coast has been awarded 170,000 shekel compensation for mistreatment by Mrs. Netanyahu. I understand that if the fine will be paid, tax payers will foot the bill, but even if a higher court will overrule the verdict, few will forget the arguments that led to the initial decision. And the major domo has said that there’s more to come out in due course.
Not that some politicians, not only in the present government but also in the past haven’ tried to curtail the authority of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, but so far, mercifully, they haven’t succeeded.
In view of what else is happening here at present, all this seems trivial. The terrorist acts continue almost daily. Many of the attackers are killed by the Israeli security forces which Israel’s enemies abroad are using as arguments about its “disproportionate” response. Though their views are usually misguided and/or malicious the fact remains that the desperate attempts by Palestinians to attack Israelis may be a reaction to the realization, especially by the young, that the so-called two-state solution is dead and that Palestinians’ hopes and aspirations have had to yield to what Israelis deem to be security concerns.
Perhaps Olmert, the Netanyahus and others are making us avoid addressing the issues that might determine the future of this country.