Jerusalem – Following months of investigations, the Israeli Police announced Sunday night that they were recommending Prime Minister Ehud Olmert be indicted for bribery.
In addition, police recommended Mr. Olmert be indicted for fraudulent reception of goods under aggravated circumstances, fraud and breach of trust, money laundering and tax offenses in both the bribery and fraud allegations.
The decision to recommend indictment was led by the Investigations and Intelligence Branch Cmdr. Yohanan Danino and Economic Crime Unit Lt. Cmdr. Yoav Segalovich.
Yesterday morning, the police recommendation was formally relayed to Israeli Attorney General Meni Mazuz, who must now decide whether to order Mr. Olmer’s indictment, subject to a hearing.
On Wednesday, police handed over several cardboard boxes to the Israel State Attorney’s Office, containing thousands of documents that constitute the raw evidence against Mr. Olmert.
At the meeting, a legal opinion was heard that there was no need to show evidence as to what Mr. Olmert gave businessman Morris Talansky in order to charge him with bribery, and it was enough that Mr. Talansky had expected something in return when he gave Mr. Olmert the cash envelopes. Nonetheless, the police said, the investigation team managed to obtain evidence that shows that Mr. Olmert acted to help Mr. Talansky’s business.
This refers to Mr. Olmert’s attempt to persuade businessmen to buy mini-bars from a company owned by Mr. Talansky for their hotels. Mr. Olmert did not just write letters, say the police, he also put pressure on businessmen to meet with Mr. Talansky.
In addition, police said the prime minister would be questioned once more in an affair involving allegations of Mr. Olmert in the Israel Investment Center.
Among other allegations, Mr. Olmert is being investigated for his personal investments in the Palestinian Authority, at a time when Mr. Olmert is conducting sensitive negotiations with it.
It is expected that the Israel attorney general and the Israel state attorney will only make a decision after the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashana, which falls on Sept. 30, about whether to adopt the police recommendations and to indict Mr. Olmert.
If a decision is made to indict, the final decision will only be made after Mr. Olmert is given a hearing. With this timetable, a final decision may be made at the beginning of 2009.
Olmert: We’ll Wait For The Trial
The Prime Minister’s Bureau responded as if it is still business as usual.
In the past few days, the working assumption of the prime minister’s aides was that police were about to recommend that Mr. Olmert be indicted. Consequently, the announcement Sunday evening came as no surprise.
The prime minister’s associates continue to say that he has promised to resign if he is indicted, and until Attorney General Meni Mazuz makes a decision, Mr. Olmert will continue in his role. No meetings were canceled and his schedule was expected to continue as planned.
According to his associates, Mr. Olmert will continue to advance the initiatives he has begun and make decisions on all matters, including the peace process.
The prime minister’s lawyers said yesterday that in all previous cases in which the police recommended that prime ministers be indicted, the attorney general did not accept the recommendation.
The prime minister’s lawyers issued statements yesterday.
“The only person authorized by law to decide whether to indict the prime minister is the attorney general,” wrote the lawyers. “He has the authority and he bears responsibility. The police recommendations have no significance. It would have been more appropriate for the police to refrain from expressing opinions on matters that are not within their expertise or authority …”
On Sept. 17, Mr. Olmert’s party, Kadima, will choose a new leader. If that leader is able to form a governing coalition, only then would Mr. Olmert be forced to resign his position as the prime minister of Israel. The chances of a Kadima leader being able to form a new ruling coalition in Israel are not great.
Indeed, while newspapers around the world had erroneously reported on July 31 that Mr. Olmert had resigned his position as the prime minister of Israel, The Bulletin had accurately reported that Mr. Olmert had only stated that he had “intended” to resign when a new prime minister would form a new coalition.
Epilogue: The Precedent
In April 1977, Israeli headlines blared that then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his wife were illegally holding two bank accounts in Washington from the time that Mr. Rabin was ambassador to the U.S., 1968 to 1972.
Mr. Rabin resigned his position as prime minister, handing over the leadership of the Israel Labor Party to then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres.
After his decision to resign, the Israeli media reported that Mrs. Leah Rabin held about $2,000 in that illegal account.
Mr. Rabin did not have to disclose or discuss what was in his account, because he had resigned in disgrace as the prime minister of Israel.
In late October 1995, two former Nixon administration officials confirmed that Mr. Rabin had received more than $250,000 from the “Committee to Re-elect the President” of Watergate fame. Following Mr. Rabin’s assassination on Nov. 4, 1995, this revelation was never published.
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008