J.J. Goldberg

Lesson of Chris Christie and Ehud Olmert Scandals

By J.J. Goldberg

  • Print
  • Share Share

The state of New Jersey prides itself on its “long and strong relationship” with the state of Israel. The feeling is often mutual. But this is getting ridiculous.

Both states are sweating through major political corruption scandals reaching to the very highest ranks of government. In both cases, the central figure in the scandal saw his prospects take a dive this weekend when a former top aide, a woman confidante he’d thrown under bus, turned around and decided to testify against him. Both are erstwhile moderate white knights whose dreams of top office are probably now crushed because they forgot the oldest rule in the book — the one about a women scorned. Especially when she was your chief of staff.

One of them is former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. The other is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Olmert is awaiting the judge’s verdict next Monday in a real estate bribery case, the so-called Holyland Affair, dating back to his years as Jerusalem mayor in the 1990s. Acquittal, which seemed likely, would have cleared the way for him to try to regain the prime minister’s office, from which he resigned under a cloud of investigations in 2008. On Thursday, though, prosecutors reached a plea deal with Shula Zaken, Olmert’s longtime bureau chief and close confidante for 35 years, who was indicted with him. She agreed to testify against Olmert in return for a reduced sentence if the judge agrees to reopen proceedings.

Zaken had stood by Olmert through a string of bribery and corruption investigations and trials, refusing to testify against him and even claiming responsibility for bribes prosecutors blamed on Olmert. That all changed last October, though, when Olmert, during testimony, was asked if he thought Zaken was corrupt and suggested prosecutors ask her.

The other is New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie.

He’s fighting off suspicions that he knew about a plot by his aides last September to snarl traffic in a Democratic-run New Jersey town, Fort Lee, by shutting down access lanes to the nearby George Washington Bridge. The case has shaken his once-soaring popularity and possibly killed his hopes of winning the 2016 Republican presidential nomination — though he was in Las Vegas this week attending the Republican Jewish Coalition confab and meeting with Sheldon Adelson as though nothing were amiss at home.

So far the evidence in the bridge case hasn’t run higher than his former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, who authored the smoking-gun August 2013 email memo telling a bridge official it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” It might have stopped there, too, if Christie hadn’t decided to put Kelly through the wringer. He fired her in January, publicly called her “stupid” and “deceitful” and left her twisting in the wind.

All that paled, though, next to the “independent” legal report on the scandal released Friday, commissioned by Christie’s own office, which not only exonerated Christie of all responsibility but offered humiliating details about Kelly’s love life, implying that she ordered the bridge shutdown while she was overwrought over a bad breakup. In response, Kelly’s lawyer issued a statement Friday evening slamming the legal report’s “venomous, gratuitous, and inappropriate sexist remarks” and saying that Kelly would be willing, in return for immunity, to offer “evidence” that “could be critical to verifying” whether or not Christie was involved.

Ironically, Christie’s lawyers wanted to imply that Kelly took out her distress over a lover’s abandonment on the people of Fort Lee. Right idea, wrong scenario — in fact, it looks like she’s about to take out her distress over a boss’s abandonment on the boss.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shula Zaken, Holyland Affair, George Washington Bridge, Ehud Olmert, Chris Christie, Bridget Anne Kelly, Bridgegate

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.