Before writing anything else here, let me begin by stating that I think Ehud Olmert is as corrupt as they come in Israeli politics. Which isn’t saying much, since virtually all the major politicians in Israel (that is those who wield real power as opposed to those in Opposition) are corrupt to one degree or another.
Which is why I am saddened that the State’s key witness in the Holyland corruption trial has died. I am told by a knowledgeable Israeli source that he was 76 year-old Shmuel Dachner, and the developer behind the Jerusalem Holyland project. Haaretz reports that Dachner testified that he paid $30,000 to Olmert’s brother (keeping it all in the family), along with similar bribes to a Jerusalem city engineer (Olmert was mayor at the time), and Olmert’s personal secretary, Shula Zaken. The overall total in bribes paid is alleged to be “in the millions of shekels.”
This development means Olmert is less likely to be convicted though a conviction is still possible. If he gets off it will mean a certain return to Israeli politics, where he will resume pulling the wool over the eyes of an electorate which believes him to be a sensible moderate, unlike the raving extremism of Lieberman and the like. The truth is that Olmert is little different than Bibi in terms of the overall effect of his policies. His return to politics will mean another shot of anesthesia for the body politic which has numbed itself to any prospect for change or compromise with the Palestinians.
You may wonder why I’m even writing about this case since such corruption is so de rigueur in the Israeli context. The reason is that there is a gag order prohibiting the publication of Dachner’s name. Yet any reasonably intelligent person can read past stories about the Holyland project, which explicitly mentioned his name, and put two and two together.
Only in Israel do a judge and State prosecutor think the public is so stupid that they can’t figure these things out for themselves. So because I think the average Israeli is smarter than the average censor or gagging judge, I’ll make explicit Dachner’s identity. Not to mention the fact that Dachner is now deceased and maintaining a gag order on the identity of a dead man seems beyond ridiculous.