We’re all acquainted with the phrases “mitzvah goreres mitzvah” – one mitzvah leads to another mitzvah – and “aveirah goreres aveirah” – one sin leads to another sin. Reflecting on the saga of convicted criminal Ehud Olmert, the phrase that comes to mind is “one lie leads to another lie.”
My recollection of Olmert dates back to 1988, when, as a member of Knesset, he was my guest, live from Israel, on a radio program I presented with radio icon Barry Farber on WMCA in New York. The program was aired prior to the 1988 Israeli elections. The Knesset had just passed a new anti-racist law in order to bar MK Rabbi Meir Kahane as a candidate for re-election.
Reb Meir naturally appealed this decision, and the appeal soon reached the high court for a final verdict.
On the day of final judgment, I used my press card to enter the courtroom and witness this historic moment.
To my shock, the lawyer for the prosecution was none other than Ehud Olmert.
Everyone stood as the panel of judges entered the chamber and took their seats.
The judge in the center lifted his gavel and with a bang announced, “Overruled!” Kahane’s appeal had been dismissed.
The judges rose and left the courtroom. Kahane’s entourage left singing and angrily shouting, and someone lifted Reb Meir on his shoulders.
A moment later, there were only two people left in the courtroom: Attorney Olmert and me. Olmert remained standing, with a smile – or smirk – on his lips, his eyes gazing off into the near future when he expected to be rewarded with a ministry in the newly elected government for his successful efforts against Kahane.
Olmert had essentially lied, portraying a faithful and devoted Jew as a potential Khomeini or even Hitler. He had obviously read Kahane’s writings and highlighted any statements that, if taken out of context, could deceive the court.
I stood and approached him and firmly asked, “You’re smiling, huh? You’re smiling?”
I then pointed to his lips and said, “One day you’ll regret this smile.”
I turned and left, slamming the door.
Two years later, Meir Kahane was assassinated.
Eventually Olmert became mayor of Jerusalem, while Kahane’s Kach movement was outlawed as a terrorist organization.
As mayor, Olmert refused to allow the annual yahrzeit commemoration for Kahane at the Ulam David catering hall, stationing police at the door and on the block.
Then the Second Intifada broke out, and buses and restaurants all over Jerusalem were being blown up by suicide bombers, just as Kahane had predicted when he’d asked, “Do you want Kahane or do you want Arafat?”
After each tragic suicide blast the mayor would speak to the people on camera.
Dov Shurin would always arrive and stand directly behind him.
And as Olmert would began to speak to the media I would shout, “Kahane was right, Olmert, and you know it better than anyone because you were the lawyer against Kahane and you read his books!”
By then the police would be schlepping me away.
I did this over and over again. You could say, using the Hebrew, that I was rodef (hounding) the man. Until one day, after yet another terrorist incident, as Olmert awaited the cameras, I whispered to him, “You want me to stop this redifa? At least allow the yahrzeit commemoration for Kahane, an assassinated former Knesset member!”
A month later, on the 18th day of the Hebrew month Marcheshvan, Olmert finally allowed the gathering at Ulam David.
Soon afterward, Olmert re-entered the Knesset to become Sharon’s right-hand man as they invented the lie called hitnatkut (disengagement) that resulted in the expulsion of more than 8,000 Jews from Gush Katif.