Former prime minister Ehud Olmert told a press conference Monday that he leaves court “standing tall” after being handed a one year suspended sentence and a fine of NIS 75,300 for breaching the public trust in what has been called the “Investment Center Affair”. Olmert was charged with using his position as Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labor to benefit his friends and colleagues.
If Olmert commits a similar crime in the next three years, he will have to serve jail time.
Analysts expected Olmert to be sentenced to at least six months of community service, which in and of itself would have been seen as a major coup. Though the state recommended a six month prison sentence to be served through community service, Olmert argued that he had been through enough after having given up his position as prime minister and undergoing 4 years of court cases and investigations and should therefore be given no penalty. The court ultimately agreed with his arguments.
Olmert was acquitted in July of all serious crimes related to a series of incidents.
Olmert, who turns 67 on September 30, has expressed an interest in re-entering the political arena.
Former advisor to George W. Bush Elliot Abrams stated in an interview that the American people would support an Israeli strike on Iran and criticized the Obama Administration for its handling of Iran’s nuclear threat, calling Obama’s approach “weak.”
“The President has made one big mistake . . . We have not made the Iranians afraid of a strike and I think they ought to be afraid of a strike – of an American strike in reality,” Abrams said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.
Abrams said that this may be the reason why Iran has no desire to conclude an agreement with the Permanent Members of the Security Council and Germany (the so-called “P5+1”).
“They do not think it’s possible. They do not think it’s in the cards. I think that is one of the reasons diplomacy has failed – and it has failed,” he said.
As for an Israeli strike, Abrams said it would be “justifiable” given the danger Iran poses to Israel.
Abrams credited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “helping along” the sanctions regime against Iran with his public statements.
“I think the Europeans, for example, would not have supported sanctions as much as they have, nor, I think, the Russians [or] the Chinese, had it not been for Israel’s drawing attention to the threat from Iran and drawing attention to the possibility that Israel would feel [it] must act against that threat,” Abrams said.
Abrams predicted that Obama would not be able to take punitive measures against Israel for such a strike, saying that “in an election year it’s particularly hard for a president …to take a position against Israel as the American people are taking a position in favor of Israel.”
Abrams also revealed that one of the reasons President Bush pursued the Annapolis Peace Conference and the renewal of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with such vigor towards the end of his term was that then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the administration such efforts had a good chance of success.
JERUSALEM – A panel of three Jerusalem regional court judges acquitted former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday of all corruption charges in the Rishon Tours and Moshe Talansky matters. The judges, though, found him guilty of breach of trust in the Investment Center affair, which took place during Olmert’s tenure as minister of industry, trade and labor nearly a decade ago.
The state prosecutor had charged Olmert with fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records, double billing, tax evasion and accepting bribes in the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs nearly four years ago. During the course of the long legal battle, Talansky, a Long Island financier who co-founded the New Jerusalem Fund with Olmert, alleged in court that Olmert requested cash for various purposes. If the court had rendered a guilty verdict on the fraud charges, each charge would have carried a minimum jail term of three years. The breach of trust guilty verdict does not carry an automatic jail sentence, as the penalty is determined by judicial discretion.
Despite Olmert’s acquittals, the judges declared that the former prime minister’s former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, was guilty of two counts of fraud and breach of trust in the Rishon Tours case. Her conviction, which will almost certainly be challenged by her legal team, carries a minimum prison term of three years.
A cadre of legal experts and media commentators expressed surprise at the verdict on Olmert, especially in the Rishon Tours double-billing case whereby several witnesses maintained that both Olmert and Zaken were aware of double billing major Jewish organizations – and even orchestrated the action.
After the verdicts were handed down, the legal experts publicly questioned how Zaken, who was in constant daily contact with Olmert throughout most of his political career and updated him on all matters, could be found guilty while Olmert could emerge virtually unscathed.
Other legal pundits are arguing that Zaken is taking the fall for Olmert, despite the fact that she was allegedly offered immunity from prosecution had she turned state’s witness against her former boss. MK Dalia Itzik, a former political ally of Olmert’s during his tenure as prime minister and head of the Kadima Party, blasted State Attorney Moshe Lador. “This is one of the most severe legal earthquakes to ever hit Israel. It’s difficult to understand how supposedly rock-solid cases, which forced Olmert from office, collapsed. It’s absurd,” she said.
While expressing dismay with Zaken’s conviction, Olmert was ecstatic with his not guilty verdict on the corruption charges. “I knew I would be vindicated. There was no corruption or envelopes with money,” he told a horde of Israeli and foreign reporters at the Jerusalem courthouse. “This won’t be the last time you will be hearing from me.”
Olmert and Zaken’s legal battles, however, are far from over. Tuesday’s legal drama comes at the same time that Olmert, Zaken and former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski are being accused by the state prosecution’s main witness, a controversial businessman with a checkered reputation, as being central players in the so-called Holyland Affair. The Holyland trial is expected to last several months, with a verdict not expected until either later this year or early next year.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has won a surprise victory on Tuesday morning, as a panel of three district court judges acquitted him of most of the counts against him, in four cases that were associated with his name. He was only convicted of breach of trust in the Investment Center affair.
This makes Olmert the first Israeli Prime Minister ever to be convicted of a criminal offense.
Sentencing will take place on September 5.
In the Rishon Tours affair Olmert and his former chief of staff Shula Zaken were accused of instituting a fraud scheme that allowed him to receive extra funding for official trips abroad, and apply the surplus funds to private family trips. Olmert was acquitted of the charge in this case, but Zaken has been convicted of fraud and of breach of trust.
“The evidence does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was aware of the collection of excess funds and their use,” the judges ruled. “His overt behavior did not appear consistent with the method of deliberate fraud that is alleged in the indictment. The intent to finance private trips through surplus funds was not proven.”
The second indictment dealt with Talansky and the Investment Center affairs, which are, in effect, one and the same. Olmert was accused of breach of trust, for having received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, sometimes in envelopes, from Morris Talansky, and in doing so deviated from the rules of etiquette as government minister. The cash was hidden in a safe belonging to attorney Uri Messer, then Olmert’s partner and close friend.
At the same time, the prosecution alleges that Olmert had a conflict of interests when he advocated for for Talansky’s business, and that when he was Minister of Industry he favored Messer’s clients, also in a serious conflict of interests.
In addition, Olmert was acquitted of defrauding and deceiving the State Comptroller regarding the value of his pen collection and money he received from businessman Joe Elmaliach.
The transfer of one of Jerusalem’s most prime pieces of real estate to Russia will be finalized when the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) vacates its offices, following the completion of talks between Israel and Russia on Sunday.
In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented the Sergei building and its 9-acre courtyard with gardens and fishponds in the Russian Compound as a gift to the Russian government. He made the gesture during a visit to Moscow to persuade President Dimitry Medvedev not to sell arms to Syria and to back sanctions against Iran. The decision to transfer the property was made by the prime minister, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann.
Last year, the Agriculture Ministry and the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites evacuated their offices in the compound. SPNI issued a request to continue working in the offices, but was denied by the Russian government.
Israel gained control of approximately 90 percent of the Russian compound in 1964, paying the Russian government $3.5 million in citrus fruits for the property due to lack of hard currency – hence the dubbing of the agreement the “Orange Deal”.
The Sergei building, not included in the sale, was completed in 1890, and served as a hotel for Russian aristocrats, royalty, and dignitaries on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It was named for brother of Tzar Alexander III, Grand Duke Sergei, then President of the Imperial Russian Orthodox Palestine Society. The property had been purchased by Tzar Alexander II in 1860 from the Ottoman Empire.
When the plan to give possession of the property to Russia was announced in 2008, opponents protested the giving over of Jerusalem heritage sites to foreign entities, and warned that Russia was not a strong enough ally to trust with the property. Then-candidate for Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also disapproved of the plan, calling it a “dangerous precedent, giving property in the heart of Jerusalem to foreign interests.”
Russia has vowed to keep the area open to the public, and says it will restore the yard and buildings for use by Russian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem today.
The SPNI announcement comes just a day before Russian Premier Vladimir Putin’s Monday arrivalin Israel on an official state visit. The leader is expected to meet with top Israeli officials to discuss Iran’s nuclear progress. He will also dedicate a monument in Netanya to the valor of the Red Army in World War II. The large stone monument consisting of a pair of white wings, an unprecedented joint-state venturebetween Israel and Russia, will also honor the more than half a million Jewish Red Army soldiers who fought in the war.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday urged Israeli leaders to surrender large swaths of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority if they want peace.
In honor of the 45th annual Jerusalem Day, Prime Minister Olmert – who served as Jerusalem’s Mayor from 1993 to 2003 – told the Maariv daily newspaper that Jerusalem was never truly united, and while he called that a “tragedy”, he also said it will mean “inevitable political concessions”.
The Israel Defense Forces liberated eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and the Tomb of the Prophet Samuel from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, as well as the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, including heritage sites the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem.
In his interview with Maariv, Olmert highlighted the division and separation between Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, and lamented that not enough had been done to homogenize the city.
Regarding Arab neighborhoods, Olmert said “apart from heartache we get nothing from them,” saying that peace will require Arab neighborhoods to be separated and given to a Palestinian state.
He also said that the Old City and the Temple Mount should be up for discussion in final peace talks.
Olmert lamented the peace deal he could “touch” in 2007 and 2008, and said that if he had been prime minister for a few more months, he believes an agreement on a Palestinian state would have been completed.
Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had very different things to say about Jerusalem on this year’s Jerusalem Day.
“Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a heart. And our heart will never be divided again,” he said.
He warned that dividing Jerusalem would lead to a war pitting Jews against Muslims in the city, and boasted that Israeli control of holy sites provided the highest level of accessibility and religious freedom to all citizens.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat chastised Olmert, calling the idea of dividing Jerusalem “a bigger mistake”.
“He lost his faith in Jerusalem when he was mayor,” Barkat said, accusing him of wanting “to run from conflicts in Jerusalem and give in to them, instead of coping with them and directing them.”
I had just wrapped up a pleasant visit with my good friend Jack from the US. As he pulled away, the beeper beeped, with something of a blood-chilling message: “Police have broken into Machpelah House and are expelling its residents.”
Over the past few days, a number of important politicians had visited Machpelah House, including Ministers Yuli Edelstein, Yisrael Katz, Moshe Kachlon, Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel, and MKs Uri Ariel and Tzippy Hotoveli. And there may be others that I’ve forgotten.
When Barak insisted on expelling the families from the building, others, including Gideon Sa’ar and Limur Livnat, protested publicly.
Last night, as we were conducting a small dedication in Machpelah House, Bibi was meeting with a group of ministers to discuss the “crisis.” Unofficial results consisted of “no decision yet” and “no change in status,” at least until of end of April.
So when the storm-troopers crashed the party early Wednesday afternoon, very few people were home. Most were at their “other homes,” getting ready for Passover. It only took a few minutes for the hundreds of police, border police, soldiers and riot squad to round up a few women and kids, and see them to the door. Quiet, peaceful, almost pastoral. Almost. But not quite. Watching a group of about twenty Border-police women surrounding and escorting a young woman with her two very small children isn’t really tranquility-in-action. Actually, it’s rather sickening.
So what happened? Yesterday Bibi said that we’d have some time to prove our case. And today?
It seems that our Prime Minister, as we get close to the holiday celebrating our exodus from Egypt, decided to dress up as the Pharaoh and to assist with another exodus. This one from Hebron. Of course, his original great great granddaddy tried to keep us in Egypt. His great great grandson, the new version of the Pharaoh, is doing the opposite, which is, expelling us – from our homes, our property, our land.
Good ol’ Bibi is the same Prime Minister whose actions took Hebron into Hell. The decision to split the city, leaving most of Hebron with Arafat, including the hills surrounding the Jewish community, led to massive gunfire directed at us for two and a half years. Leading to the killing of Shalhevet Pass, and to the injuring of others, physically and otherwise. Bibi promised us we’d be safe. He lied.
In the government decision of January, 1997, Bibi promised to assist Hebron, building and developing its Jewish community. He lied.
A day ago, Bibi promised that Machpelah House residents would have a chance to prove that they really own the building. He lied.
A true Pharaoh at heart.
Bibi’s coalition is fairly right-wing. The people in his cabinet certainly lean right. Likud’s MKs, for the most part, certainly lean right. His coalition partners certainly lean right.
Except for one: Ehud Barak. Barak is, for all intents and purposes, partyless. He left Labor, and doesn’t have a spot in the polls. He’s a nothing, a political nobody. Yet he is Defense Minister of the State of Israel, and as such, wields tremendous authority. So much so that his lone opinion outweighs that of Netanyahu’s party, MKs, Ministers and coalition. So if Ehud says…, Bibi does.
What a mighty, powerful Pharaoh!
It’s clear that this is not an isolated incident. It fits, hand–in-hand, with Barak’s plans to expel Jews from Migron, Beit El, and who knows where else. This is just the beginning of the rolling of the snowball, whose true goal is the deletion of all Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.
Other Prime Ministers have expelled Jews from their homes: Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert. What happened to them?
That’s where Pharaoh Bibi is headed. In the same direction. He will fizzle and fail. And Machpelah House, as ensconced in the name (Machpelah means ‘double’), will double, triple and quadruple itself, many times over.