Ehud Olmert, Former Israeli Prime Minister, Sentenced To 6 Years In Prison
| by JOSEF FEDERMAN
Israeli court sentenced former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to six years in
prison for his role in a bribery scandal, capping the stunning downfall of a
politician who just a few years ago hobnobbed at the White House and claimed to
be close to reaching a historic peace agreement with the Palestinians.
minister sentenced to prison, is set to become the latest in a string of top
Israeli politicians to serve time for serious crimes. The scandals have fueled
a feeling of public sorrow over the state of the country's political system
mixed with relief that no one is above the law.
day," said Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who served as Olmert's foreign
minister, adding that the decision nonetheless sent an important message.
"I have full faith in the court and the law enforcement system, and that's
how the Israeli public should feel too," she said.
in a wide-ranging case that accused him of accepting bribes to promote a
controversial real-estate project in Jerusalem. He was charged for acts while
he was mayor of Jerusalem and national trade minister, years before he became
prime minister in 2006.
and his lawyer said they would appeal Tuesday's sentence to the Supreme Court.
maximum sought by prosecutors. Olmert also was ordered to pay a $290,000 fine.
Judge David Rozen, a Tel Aviv district court judge, accused Olmert of
undermining the public's trust as he delivered the punishment.
accepts bribes is akin to a traitor," Rozen said. "This is a man who
was on top of the world. He served as prime minister, the most important
position, and from there he reached the position of a man convicted of criminal
walked out of the courthouse without speaking to reporters. Rozen ordered him
and several co-defendants to report to prison on Sept. 1.
an "unjust verdict" was delivered against an innocent man. He
described Olmert as "a man who never took bribes, who contributed so much
to the country."
downfall of a man who over four decades transformed himself from a
sharp-tongued backbencher in the hard-line Likud Party into a global statesman
whose push for peace with the Palestinians was cut short by his legal troubles.
in Israel's hard-line right wing when he began taking a more moderate line
toward the Palestinians when he was deputy prime minister a decade ago. He
played a leading role in Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
January 2006 after then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a debilitating
stroke. He subsequently led their newly formed Kadima Party to victory in
parliamentary elections on a platform of pushing further peace moves with the
crossed a series of taboos while in office — warning that Israel could become
like apartheid South Africa if it continued its occupation of the Palestinians
and expressing readiness to relinquish control of parts of the holy city of
Jerusalem as part of a peace deal.
the Annapolis peace conference in November 2007 — launching more than a year of
ambitious, but unsuccessful peace talks with the Palestinians. Olmert enjoyed a
warm relationship with then U.S. President George W. Bush.
unprecedented concessions to the Palestinians during those talks and was close
to reaching an agreement at the time of his resignation, though the
Palestinians have said his assessment was overly optimistic.
Olmert's term was clouded by the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier who was
captured by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid and an inconclusive war against
Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. Both incidents occurred shortly after he took
office. Olmert also launched a military invasion of the Gaza Strip in late 2008
that drew heavy international criticism.
allegations, which had dogged him throughout his career, which ultimately
proved his undoing. He was forced to announce his resignation in late 2008 and
left office early the following year.
separate charges of accepting illicit funds from an American supporter and
double-billing Jewish groups for trips abroad. In that case, he was cleared in
2012 of the most serious charges but convicted on a lesser count of breach of
trust for steering jobs and contracts to clients of business partners and got a
suspended one-year sentence.
moral victory, and Olmert had signaled an intention to return to politics if he
could beat the charges in the real estate scandal. He had been seen as one of
the few politicians capable of mounting a challenge as a centrist alternative
to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
sentencing, any hopes of a political comeback appear to be over.
criminal law at the University of Haifa, said Olmert's appeal has little chance
of success. He said the prison sentence, while somewhat high, still fell within
standard legal norms, and said the Supreme Court does not typically overrule a
lower court's factual findings.
good chance to convince the Supreme Court to change the verdict," Gross
join a former Israeli president, ex-Cabinet minister and several lawmakers who
have all gone to prison in recent years.
of Israel's prison service, said his agency has begun discussions in recent
weeks on how to prepare for Olmert's arrival. He called it an "exceptional
case" and said officials would have to consider his safety and privacy.
else can I say," President Shimon Peres said during an official visit in