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!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • 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.”
  • 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.