Forward Thinking

Olmert Cleared in Case That Unseated Him

By J.J. Goldberg

  • Print
  • Share Share
getty images
Ehud Olmert

Ehud Olmert, whose indictment and resignation in 2008 aborted his peace negotiations with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and opened the way to the deadlock under Benjamin Netanyahu, was found not guilty this morning by the Jerusalem District Court of the main corruption charges that forced his resignation. And aborted the negotiations.

The three-judge panel, which read aloud a summary of its 700-page verdict, found that the charges had not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. News 1 reports that the detailed ruling expresses serious doubt about the nature of the charges and the reliability of some key witnesses, making it unlikely that the prosecution could win on appeal.

Olmert was charged with setting up a double billing system through Rishontours travel agency in order to get double reimbursement from overseas groups that invited him as a guest speaker. He was also charged with receiving envelopes of cash from Long Island fundraiser Morris Talansky in what were portrayed as bribes for undetermined purposes. The judges ruled that there was no proof Olmert was aware of the double billing in the Rishontours case, and that no effort was made to hide the activity, which cast doubt on the likelihood of fraudulent intent. Olmert had maintained his complete innocence all along.

The bottom line appears to be that the prime minister was forced from office for nothing. And because he resigned, Palestinian leader Abbas held off replying to Olmert’s last negotiating offer, expecting to resume the negotiations with the new Israeli government once the dust had settled. But once the dust had settled and Israel had elected a new prime minister, the new prime minister didn’t want to resume negotiations where they left off. He called that “preconditions.” He wanted to start again from zero.

It’s been pretty thoroughly documented that Olmert and Abbas had reached agreement on most key points except for the question of Palestinian refugees’ right of return. Olmert transmitted his final offer to Abbas in September 2008 with an offer to accept a symbolic “return” totaling 5,000 refugees. The Palestine Papers leaked to Al-Jazeera, apparently notes from the Palestinian negotiating team, show that Abbas called the 5,000 figure “a joke.” They also showed that Abbas told his team Israel could not be expected to receive an unlimited number, since that would be the end of the Jewish state. A final PLO negotiating memo (which I’ve seen, in both its Arabic and English forms) says that the Palestinians demand that Israel accept 150,000 refugees. It’s safe to assume that if the negotiations had continued, the final figure would have been somewhere between those two figures - 5,000 and 150,000. But the negotiations didn’t continue.

Conventional wisdom has it that negotiations in the Middle East are unsafe because you never know whether the government you’re negotiating with is going to be there next year. That’s supposed to refer to the Arab side, but so far none of the Arab governments that have reached agreements with Israel have trashed them. Not even the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. On the other hand, Israeli governments negotiating with the PLO have disintegrated once by assassination, once through a coalition collapsing (Barak in 2001) and once through what turn out to be phony corruption charges. I’m not saying there’s a pattern here or anything…


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rishontours, Peace Negotiations, Benjamin Netanyahu, Morris Talansky, Mahmoud Abbas, Ehud Olmert, Corruption Charges

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!
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • 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.