On Thursday night at 11:35 p.m., the Israel State Prosecutor’s office lifted a 72-hour gag order that had prevented the media from reporting the news that the prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, is being investigated for bribery in a case that involves the term of office when he held the position of Mayor of Jerusalem, 1993-2001.

At the outset of his term of office in Jerusalem, Mr. Olmert launched the New Jerusalem Fund, which raised approximately $4 million to $5 million annually.

Mr. Olmert is now being investigated for taking alleged payoffs that were handed to him in cash for several of the projects that he advocated for the Jerusalem Fund.

Moreover, investigators are looking into allegations that the New Jerusalem Foundation served as a conduit for fund transfers to interests tied to Mr. Olmert.

The investigation is reportedly looking into allegations that Shula Zaken, a longtime personal assistant to Mr. Olmert, kept a detailed journal of the money transfers.

While Mr. Olmert denies any wrongdoing, there are unconfirmed press reports that at least three of Mr. Olmert’s associates have offered to turn “state’s evidence” and to testify against Mr. Olmert on the condition of immunity.

Financial investigations of Israeli prime ministers are not without precedents.

Mr. Olmert’s predecessor, Ariel Sharon, who retired in January 2006 after a stroke, was investigated for financial improprieties throughout his five years in office.

Those investigations did result in the conviction and current imprisonment of Ariel Sharon’s son, Omri, his campaign manager, who is now serving a six-month jail sentence.

Mr. Sharon, in a coma for more than two years, was not seen as fit to stand trial.

Mr. Sharon’s predecessor as prime minister, Ehud Barak, was also investigated throughout his 20 months in office for financial improprieties.

Indeed, in January 2000, The Israel State Comptroller’s office published a scathing report which documented that Mr. Sharon’s predecessor as prime minister, Ehud Barak, had fabricated 25 nonprofit organizations to launder foreign currency to underwrite his successful 1999 campaign to depose Benyamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Barak’s attorney, Yitzhak Hertzog, who managed these fictitious money laundering groups, would not cooperate with the Israel State Prosecutor and took the Israeli equivalent of the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment when called in for police questioning and was never indicted. The Israel State Prosecutor did mandate the indictment of Mr. Barak’s Public relations director, Tal Zilberstein. However, Mr. Zilberstein has yet to be indicted.

Where are they now?

Mr. Barak, although not a member of the Israeli Knesset parliament, was elected six months ago as the head of the Israel Labor Party and appointed by Mr. Olmert as Israel’s minister of defense. Mr. Herzog, elected to the Knesset in 2003, has served for the past three years as a senior minister in the Israeli government. Mr. Zilberstein, having never been indicted, works as a senior public relations consultant to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert.

Israeli Intelligence: Egypt Advocates ‘Lull In Fighting’ So Hamas Can Strengthen Itself

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC), http://www.intelligence.org.il, acts as the public face of Israeli intelligence. When this center issues a report, it does so in the name of the government of Israel.

This week, the center issued an unprecedented attack on the government of Egypt, accusing Cairo of advancing no more than a “lull in fighting” which would only allow the Hamas to prepare the next stage in its war to liquidate the Jewish state.

In the assessment of Israeli intelligence, it says: “Hamas is interested in the lull reached with Egypt, which meets most of its demands. It views the lull, which includes opening the Gaza Strip crossings on Hamas terms and an improvement in the economic situation, as a means of strengthening and stabilizing its control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas is also of the opinion that the time-out achieved by the lull will enable it to accelerate its military buildup in preparation for a future confrontation with Israel and will improve its standing among Palestinians, in the Arab and Muslim world (especially vis-à-vis Egypt) and even in the international arena.”

Israeli intelligence also assesses that “Hamas is aware that Israeli agreement to the lull is conditional on the cessation of smuggling [arms] into the Gaza Strip and manufacturing [them in the Gaza Strip]” and that ” by implication, the lull in the fighting does not include any commitment on the part of Hamas to stop manufacturing and smuggling weapons.”

Most interestingly, this Israeli intelligence report also included the definition of the Arabic term tahadhiya, a lull in the fighting, as no more than “lowering the intensity of a confrontation through a mutual commitment to stop the fighting, which does not necessarily include the complete cessation of all military activities (such as collecting intelligence, procuring arms, etc.).” The report slams the media for mistranslating this term as a “truce” and reminds the press that “a tahadhiya does not commit Hamas to recognizing Israel and permits it to carry out military activities except for engaging in actual fighting.”

President’s Staffer Lowers Expectations For Bush’s Visit

In a press briefing from Wednesday given by President Bush’s National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley on Mr. Bush’s pending trip to the Middle East, Mr. Hadley provided the formal notice that, on Tuesday, Mr. and Mrs. Bush will travel to the Middle East. They will visit Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Mr. Hadley added that “the trip will be an opportunity to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding and to demonstrate our nation’s support for and commitment to the region.”

The finalized plans are that, on Wednesday, Mr. and Mrs. Bush will arrive in Tel Aviv, and then will travel to Jerusalem. Mr. Bush will meet with President Shimon Peres of Israel, followed by a separate meeting with Prime Minister Olmert. The president will also deliver brief remarks at Mr. Peres’ international conference to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary.

On Thursday, Mr. and Mrs. Bush will travel to and tour the ancient fortress of Masada. The president will then deliver remarks to members of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding. The president will also meet with Quartet Representative Tony Blair to discuss progress on international assistance to Palestinian institution-building efforts. Mr. and Mrs. Bush will host a reception in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary.

Next Friday, Mr. and Mrs. Bush will participate in a roundtable with Israeli youth before traveling to Saudi Arabia. The president’s visit to Saudi Arabia will mark the 75th anniversary of the formal establishment of U.S.-Saudi relations. Upon arrival in Riyadh, Mr. and Mrs. Bush will be greeted by King Abdullah. The president will participate in a series of meetings with King Abdullah at the king’s private farm.

Next Saturday, May 17, Mr. and Mrs. Bush will travel to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The president will participate in a working lunch with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, followed by a separate meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The president will reaffirm U.S. commitment to a stable and democratic Afghanistan, and discuss the upcoming Paris support conference. Mr. Bush will also participate in a separate meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

On Sunday, May 18, Mr. Bush will meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan, followed by separate bilateral meetings with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. These meetings will be an opportunity to reaffirm the president’s commitment to the freedom agenda in the Middle East and the search for peace. The president will also meet with Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi and Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih.

When asked if there were any plans underway for a three-way, U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian meeting in Egypt, Mr. Hadley responded that “this did not seem the time for a big high-level, three-way event with the president and the prime minister and President Abbas.”

Sderot Parents Association Invite President Bush To See Their City Under Siege

The Bulletin has obtained a copy of an invitation to Mr. Bush sent by the Sderot Parents Association. The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv acknowledged that it has received the following letter and has sent it on to the president:

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Israel’s 60th Independence Day, 5758

President George W. Bush

The President of the United States of America

Washington, DC

Dear President Bush,

As a friend of Israel who is planning to arrive next week to Israel to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary, it is an honor to personally invite you to visit our city of Sderot, now under daily siege from missile attacks from Gaza.

Sderot is only a small place in our small country. Yet Sderot carries significance for those of us who live here with great pride and honor.

Today, indeed, as our nation celebrates its 60th anniversary of independence, our city of Sderot can only celebrate 52 years of that independence, since the last 8 years do not count. These have been 8 years during which the world has ignored our plight while even the leaders of Israel have ignored our plight, as our city has been turned into some kind of “punching bag” which is expected to absorb the scourge of daily missile attacks with no real response.

Even though we try to show patience, we do not know how long this will last. We have lived for eight years of fear, without any normal existence. Fear has consumed our entire community. Fear has enveloped our children.

Our reality is seeing hundreds of families in a severe state of mental trauma, of seeing normal people suddenly dispatched for treatment in closed psychiatric wards.

President Bush, there is nothing better than seeing our reality with your own eyes. You will see what we are experiencing.

All this is not in our imagination. This is unlike the media games that we watch Gazans perform for the media, as we watch Gazans make dead come back from life, or as we watch Gazans stage “work accidents” while they fire missiles aimed to terrorize our people.

President Bush, as a true friend who has stood by the people of Israel, we ask that you help us to return to our sanity, so that we can live like normal people in our land.

President Bush, all we will ask is that you remove the pressure exerted by the U.S. State Department on our government and on our prime minister to sue for a fake peace.

To paraphrase a wish from the Bible that both of our religions cherish so much, all we ask is that you help each person in Sderot live under his own fig tree in peace and tranquility.

This invitation is real, and it is being sent to you with heartfelt greetings from a small city in the land of Israel that would welcome your company.

Sincerely Yours,

Batya Katar

Chairperson, The Parents Association of Sderot

David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2008


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David Bedein
David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.