Shula Zaken’s career and her entire life have been intertwined with the life and career of top-level attorney, Likud “prince” (meaning his family belonged to the original, Jabotinsky-inspired Revisionist movement), Jerusalem mayor, government minister and finally prime minister Ebhud Olmert. Zaken was Olmert’s gatekeeper, and as such was directly involved in the complex and quite unappealing corruption quagmire her boss has been fighting in several court rooms over the past seven years.
This week, it appears that Zaken has agreed to become a state witness against her former boss, in exchange for reducing her sentence to one year in jail.
Until that crucial turn of events, the former prime minister had not escaped the long list of charges against him unscathed, he sustained an injury, in the form of a single conviction in one out of three separate cases, on breach of trust, for which he received one year’s probation and a $20 thousand fine. The last remaining case, regarding his role in the Holyland construction project—he was accused of accepting millions in bribes, while serving as Jerusalem’s mayor—was expected to be another squeaker for him. The prosecution’s key witness did not perform well at all, hard evidence was not offered, a walk in the park for Olmert.
Olmert might still beat this one, but a walk in the park it won’t be.
On Tuesday, Zaken went public on her Facebook page: “It’s no secret that in the last few days my heart’s been broken and what little joy I still had has also been almost extinguished. Until you came, dear people, family members, friends and just people – with blessings and support that I felt came from the heart. And those strengthened my faith, resurrected my joy of life, and this way I wish to thank you and bless each and every one of you that the Holy One Blessed Be His name fulfill all your wishes to a good end with health, happiness, pleasure, a good livelihood and, most important, joy in your hearts and a permanent smile on your faces.”
Convicted embezzlers who find God usually go a little overboard—I’m particularly leery of the permanent smile thing. I’m sure the prosecutors, should they accept her plea deal, will advise against it while on the stand. Could be off putting to the judges.
A week ago, Zaken reportedly told friends that she was feeling humiliated and was considering sharing with the authorities some of the vast information in her possession.
“If I open my mouth, forget it, Olmert will be sitting in jail,” she said to her friends. “I never said that he was corrupt, until he came up and said I was corrupt. I will talk about everything I have, amybe a few things that aren’t known yet.”
“After all,” Zaken emphasized, “I never did anything without instructions from him. Unlike him, I kept the covenant and the friendship until the very last minute.”
A few weeks ago, on a Friday, Zaken and Olmert happened into the same social event, and she told him, for all the world to hear: “You sold me out!”
Then, as a crowd was gathering, she shot: “You say I’m corrupt? I say that everything I did – I learned from you.”
Since, at one point, Olmert’s attorney Roy Blecher, accused Zaken of lying, it was becoming clear that the former PM was going to use Zaken as his fall guy—for everything. Zaken is now reacting like the proverbial woman scorned, complete with hell fury and the works.
“I lay down on the fence for him,” she said tearfully to her friends, citing the IDF combat method of going over a barbed wire fence – one guy throws himself on it and the rest step on his body. “I kept silent during the interrogations, I accepted responsibility, but there’s a limit to everything.”