Ehud Olmert should Not go to Jail

Who wants national leaders and symbols of nations in jail? Whether Nixon, Sharon, or anyone? Unless they commit violent crimes such as serial rapes, like Katsav, it detracts from the gravitas of office and nation– unless it is extraordinarily serious or violent.

It degrades a country, like Morsi in jail. And it’s hard to imagine that if Olmert’s Lebanon War or Cast Lead had been a triumph over Hezbollah and Hamas respectively, that he would be in danger of prison. Or if the Gaza disengagement had in every way succeeded.

I think the very top person in a country, whether symbolic (president, constitutional monarch) or daily leader (president in some countries, PMs in others) actually does symbolize a nation and people more than other tiers in politics.

Katsav was a serial rapist– and there was no choice, and it would have been an insult to women – and equally to us all – if he hadn’t gone to jail.

But I just hear so much “Clinton should be in jail (about Monica Lewinsky)”; “George W. Bush should be in jail”; “Sharon should have been in jail”; now Olmert.

But for “symbols of a nation,” I get queasy about it.

I know it’s their crimes that disgrace them, and again I support his conviction, but why, for the symbol of the nation, and forever in the pantheon of Israel’s Prime Minister’s, not instead a heavy fine and other serious penalties.

That itself is a disgrace to him (or her), but doesn’t seem quite to pull down the pillars of the “pantheon” nation’s leaders in the same way…

I would have supported Ford’s pardon of Nixon; would have hated seeing Sharon in jail,;and Clinton’s opponents tried to drive him from office about an intensely embarrassing and purely personal marital matter, which now, and with Clinton’s prestige and authority at a record high, in retrospect so utterly and grotesquely political and paltry and vengeful.

And what was a Republican Congress doing asking Clinton about such a very purely domestic and very personal marital matter in the first place?

That was like the original impeachment (indictment) of Andrew Johnson after the US Civil War, the only other time this has ever happened in the US– so political both times.

And when George W. Bush’s lying started the Iraq war (and diverted us from Bin Laden) was infinitely worse and more destructive of Iraqi citizens’ and American soldier’s lives .

Yet those lies and diversions and also in letting Al Qaeda escape led to no legal action against him whatsoever.

Still, I oppose the Left’s “Arrest Bush” slogans.

But what a striking discrepancy between the political vendetta against Clinton and nothing at all against Bush.  —Nada.

I wonder if Olmert had pushed Sharon into what had been a wholly successful Gaza disengagement, with a peaceful prosperous Gaza today, and wholly successful smashings of Hezbollah in Lebanon, if this would have happened?

Or, in a different Gaza scenario, in Cast Lead a less bloody and a totally complete demolition and entire destruction, of Hamas. Now would Olmert go to jail?

He would be a national hero; even perhaps still in office.

Ask yourself as honestly as you can if you think it would now be taken to such a point against Olmert. Open your soul and deeply ask yourself .

Again. Where does justice stop–and vendettas start? Or be so intense?

This is how — even, if unconsciously — politicized this can get, when not violent crime– unlike serial rapist Katsav’s who ought of course be in jail.

But if it’s not violent crime, it is always a shade of gray, and so, so often at least partly politicized.

For the head of a country,  jail time degrades the country, and why it is that President Ford kept Nixon out of jail. Ford had the wisdom to avoid the degrading effect it would have had on the United States.

More and more I realize how much Gerald Ford saved the United States.

And again why I would have hated to see Sharon in jail.

Olmert could have convicted and been subjected to heavy fines, made to pay back in multiples of what he may have taken, made to do community service, banned from public office, many severe penalties short of a nation’s former top leader and — with the President — top symbol, in jail.

Jailing former national leaders has something strikingly Third Worldish about it.

From caged Morsi to anywhere it so often happens in the Third World.

Again this is why  Ford didn’t allow it to happen and besmirch America.

I do support and I assume the general fairness of Israeli justice, just like American –except often the Palestinians–in Israel or under Occupation.

But I also found myself feeling badly when it seemed Avigdor Liberman —  who wasn’t even a sui generis national topmost leader — might have actually been thrown in jail.

To me there is degradation of the social–political fabric –and again Third Worldish and Banana-Republicish– when former national leaders or symbols of nations, for nonviolent offenses, are thrown into jail.

Alan Dershowitz has an excellent piece on the Ehud Olmert excessive, vengeful, sentence: At

It should be avoided at all costs for the gravitas and social and political fabric and unity and dignity of the country. There other forms of penalties, in civilized countries, for former leaders — than a cage.

About the Author
James Adler was born in Kentucky, now works in university libraries, and feels especially and intensely bound up with the fate of the Jewish people in the last hundred years, especially the Shoah, the rise of Israel "out of the ashes," and the accidental and mutually tragic collision with the Palestinians in the early and middle of the 20th century, continuing through today. He is happily married and the father of two teenagers.