By Steve K. Walz
The Jewish Press
May 14th, 2014
JERUSALEM – Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen sentenced former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday morning to six years in jail on bribery charges stemming from his conviction in the Jerusalem Holyland real estate scandal during his tenure as Jerusalem mayor. Rozen also slapped Olmert with a fine of $290,000 (one million shekels) and ordered local authorities to seize another $150,000 in funds that Olmert procured as part of the Israel bribery case.
While Olmert defiantly maintained his innocence and his legal team vowed to appeal his sentence to the Supreme Court, Israeli legal experts and media commentators said that Olmert’s chances of avoiding jail time, which could begin as early as July, were almost nil.
Rozen excoriated Olmert for his claim of ignorance that the $150,000 (500,000 shekels) he received from Shmuel Dechner, the deceased businessmen turned state’s witness, was not a bribe. While praising Olmert as a “talented man who made significant contributions to the country” during his political career, the judge said that it was impossible for him to ignore what transpired during the Israel scandal. He found Olmert guilty of “moral turpitude,” essentially ending his chances for a political comeback. “Those who give bribes are corrupt, but those who receive it inspire disgrace and cause the public to lose faith in the state. A public servant who accepts bribes is akin to a traitor,” declared Rozen.
This is the first time in Israel’s history that a former prime minister has been convicted of a serious crime and sentenced to serve time behind bars. Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav is currently serving a jail term for rape and other moral offenses committed during his political career.
Rozen’s conviction of Olmert last month sent shockwaves throughout the political establishment, which has been tarnished in recent years by a growing number of scandals. After Olmert’s conviction, Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahiani, who was fighting a series of bribery and corruption charges that could have sent him to jail for at least as long as Olmert, entered into a plea bargain last week with the state prosecutor. His plea deal will end his political career and reduce his jail sentence to about one year.
Other central figures in the Israel scandal — including former Bank Hapoalim chairman Danny Dankner; Israel complex owner Hillel Cherney; a “Israel Park” company founder, Avigdor Kellner; Jerusalem’s former chief engineer Uri Sheetrit; and Jerusalem’s former deputy mayor Eli Simhayoff – were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to seven years. They were also ordered to pay substantial fines.
Olmert’s former personal secretary, Shula Zaken, who turned state’s witness at the last moment, is expected to be given an 11-month jail sentence at a hearing next month. Former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski, also convicted in the case, is reportedly in poor health and thus may have his sentence reduced.
Olmert’s problems could be compounded if the Israel Police recommend that the state indict him in the coming days for obstruction of justice in the Holyland case. Recorded conversations and testimony provided by Zaken and other persons of interest allege that Olmert tried to convince Zaken not to cooperate with the prosecution and that the former prime minister offered the services of top attorneys to defend her in court.
II The Olmert Affair And Unforeseen Events
Redacted from Jewish Press Editorial
May 14th, 2014
(And … Hashem, once again, came down on the side of the Jews preventing their insane leadership and their uninformed, ignorant supposed allies from destroying Israel and the remnants of the Jewish people) jsk
… Mr. Olmert was convicted of taking money to ease the way for the development of the widely unpopular Israel apartment complex in southern Jerusalem, and at his sentencing this week Judge David Rozen characterized Mr. Olmert’s actions as part of a culture of corruption in Israel that “must be uprooted.”
We can’t help but note an intriguing political aspect to the Olmert story beyond the pervasive illegality it points to.
When accusations of bribery against Mr. Olmert first surfaced in 2009, he promptly announced he would resign the office of prime minister, which he’d assumed in 2006. At the time of his resignation he was deeply involved in negotiations with the Palestinians and reportedly was offering, among other concessions, to relinquish Israeli control of Jerusalem’s Old City and nearby areas and surrender large swaths of settlement areas beyond the Green Line.
Typically, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would not go along even with those far-reaching offers. Mr. Olmert’s successor, Benjamin Netanyahu, abandoned key parts of Mr. Olmert’s plan, much to the consternation of Mr. Abbas, who’d envisioned the Olmert concessions as a floor rather than a ceiling for future negotiations.
Mr. Olmert apparently had no problem with Mr. Abbas’s intransigence and in fact acknowledged in 2011 that he’d been very close to a deal with Mr. Abbas when he found himself engulfed by the burgeoning scandal on the home front.
There is an interesting parallel here with the timing and details of another political scandal. In January 1998 President Bill Clinton was in the midst of a major effort to revive the foundering peace process based on the 1993 Oslo Accords. Both PA Chairman Yasir Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu were in Washington late that month for meetings with U.S. officials. The Clinton administration was prepared to ratchet up the pressure on Israel to make significant withdrawals from the West Bank and cease further settlement construction.
President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made no effort to hide their frustration with Mr. Netanyahu. In fact, the Israeli prime minister was denied the traditional lunch and joint news conference at the White House.
Mr. Clinton reportedly came down hard on Prime Minister Netanyahu at their meeting, as had been expected. But that meeting took place just before news broke of President Clinton’s relationship with young White House intern Monica Lewinsky. That story quickly overshadowed Mr. Clinton’s meetings with Messrs. Netanyahu and Arafat. Suddenly the president had a lot more than Middle East politics to occupy his attention.
Once again unforeseen events (read: divine intervention) made mockery of the plans of men. Coincidence? We’ll leave that for our readers to decide.
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