Following the verdict in the case of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, every Israeli citizen who cares about the rule of law must help strengthen the state prosecutor's uncompromising struggle against governmental corruption. Prosecutors are at the forefront of the battle for the moral and ethical character of the state of Israel. They are up against incredibly sophisticated defendants, a hostile media, creative publicists and Israel's leading attorneys.
For a while now, there has been an effort underway to relax the state prosecutor's campaign against corrupt politicians in favor of going after small-time street criminals. Anyone who read Mordechai Gilat's book, "Deri's Curse," knows how deep the abscess of corruption is and what a threat it poses to the state and its institutions. Olmert will not be the last elected official to stand trial, and cleaning the political stables in Israel is a huge undertaking that will not be finished in a day. The process requires patience, courage and determination.
Prosecutors who deal with government corruption are not members of the Likud, Labor or even Kadima. They cast their vote for appropriate norms of behavior in a democratic society that is the fulfillment of the vision of many generations. These norms are what distinguish Israel from all of its neighbors. The leading prosecutors are like the pioneer-farmers in pre-state Israel, who took upon themselves the heavy burden of eradicating the corrupt weeds that sprouted in the country's fields.
Studies reveal that most people feel there are too many revelations of corruption in Israel. Prosecutors are expected to do what they can, honestly and reliably, to combat the problem. Prosecutors should not decide, however, if the person they bring an indictment against is guilty or innocent. It is their job to properly prepare the evidence and present it in court. Prosecutors are not conviction factories. Even in the present case it was not determined that the case should never have been brought to court.
Beyond the media spin, it is important to note that the court ruled in the Investment Center case that Olmert was guilty of a significant, even severe conflicts of interest. On this basis he was convicted of breach of trust. In more enlightened countries, such a conviction would immediately end a politician's career. In terms of the other charges against Olmert, the court essentially ruled that there is a very thin line between deceptive conduct and criminal behavior. The verdict determined that Olmert had not crossed that line. But there is a huge difference between that and the notion that Olmert was proven innocent. Any cynical attempt to play down the gravity of the facts that emerged in the trial, from the transfer of envelopes filled with money to the conduct of the prime minister's bureau chief at the time, is doomed to failure. The Israeli public long ago lost its innocence. Even the way this event has been spinned is old hat. That rusty old ammunition has been in use since the days of Aryeh Deri, the former Shas leader convicted of taking bribes.
With remarkable speed, some voices have emerged calling for an investigation into the state prosecutor, the ouster of State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and preventing investigations against future sitting prime ministers. These voices are trying to cover up what was determined in the verdict as well as lay the groundwork for the defense in the Holyland trial. We must not be led astray by the phony ecstasy of victory among Olmert's cronies. The battle against corruption will not cease, because the Israeli public has understood that it presents an existential threat.