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Tag: Ehud Olmert (page 1 of 7)

Something Is Rotten in the State of Israel

Holyland Project

To say that Israeli politicians have never been morally bankrupt is a lie – even some of the notable heroes of Israel politics like Golda Meir made mistakes, all be them honest ones – but this so-called Holyland case, concocted of the childish, conniving and greedy behavior of middle-aged Israeli political and corporate power-hitters is sickening – that is the activity, not the investigation.

Ehud Olmert is proof that the higher you climb in Israeli society, if you don’t watch your step, the lower, harder and faster you are bound to fall. In a time and place where everything you do is not only scrutinized by the non-understanding eyes of the global community, but attacked by hate-filled finger-pointers, is it too much to seek some role-model grade behavior among our leaders. Is this unrealistic?

Sure, bribery and other scandals is nothing new among the politicians of the Jewish Country – I don’t think that I need to name names or incidents, and we the Israeli people have become somewhat hardened by it – or the unscrupulous behavior of a few greed-driven politicians is certainly drowned out by the voices of our boys on the front lines or the risk of terrorism. Right? Well it appears that the Holyland case may be something of a record-breaker.

The main player in the case is an unnamed individual who allegedly received 55 million NIS from Holyland developers, acting as the intermediary, passing the bribery funds to the necessary persons towards advancing the project and eventually gaining the permits to build the monstrous structure which now stains the not unstained holiness of the Jerusalem skyline.

Another key suspect is an unnamed accountant, who police believe did made payoffs in the form of legitimate donations, seeking to pressure him into turning over the facts in the case, to incriminate others. Police also think that in some cases, opponents of the project were persuaded to become supporters after they received free apartments.

Former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky is accused of playing a vital role in the illegal activity, as head of the planning board. On Wednesday night speaking publicly with Channel 10 News, Lupoliansky shifted the responsibility to another former Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert. Lupoliansky explained that the mayor is the one calling the shots, not his deputy.

Ehud Olmert’s former Bureau Chief Shula Zaken will probably be detained and interrogated after returning to Israel from the United States. Her home was searched about a week ago, in her absence, when investigators seized several documents which tied her to the Holyland scandal.

On Wednesday, police detained businessman Danny Dankner and former head of the Israel Lands Administration Yaakov Efrati. Both of them were arrested as part of the National Fraud Unit’s Holyland corruption affair investigation, which apparently has shed light on further illegal corruption situations.

Danker, the former Chairman of Bank Hapoalim was interrogated by the National Fraud Unit on suspicion of committing criminal offenses like bribery and breach of trust. Efrati currently serves as Chairman of the Directorate of Israel Railways.

Meanwhile, police have completed their investigation of allegations against Mayor Zvi Bar of Ramat Gan and believe that there is sufficient evidence to press charges.
The mayor is suspected of corruption, money laundering, bribery and income tax violations.

Olmert Insists That He Is An Innocent Man

Hot Off The Presses: Ex-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sat in court today and denied all charges against him. He was charged with fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records, tax evasion and fraudulently obtaining benefits to which the State attributes aggravated circumstances.

This indictment actually covers four separate investigations: the Rishon Tours affair, deceptions of the State Comptroller’s Office and his former bureau chief Shula Zaken‘s wiretapping of his telephone; and his relationship with attorney, Uri Messer.

MIDEAST ISRAEL OLMERT TRIALIn the Rishon Tours affair, Olmert is charged with obtaining something by deceit under aggravated circumstances, false entry into the documents of a corporate body, fraud and breach of faith, and concealing income by deceit.

Also, while he ultimately went uncharged, the police recommended that the indictment include his alleged involvement in the Moshe Talansky case – in which he was accused of accepting money from a private businessman, a religious right-wing American, who had donated the funds to be used in the expansion of settlements; money which Olmert told no one of, and deposited in his own private bank account.

While on the stand in September, Olmert said,

“I come here as an innocent man, and I believe I will leave here as an innocent man.”

The ex-Prime Minister’s lawyer, Eli Zohar submitted his statement on Monday, saying:

“I would like to take the opportunity of this day to make a comprehensive denial of all the allegations made against Olmert in the indictment.”

The testimonial stages of the trial will commence on February 22, 2010. The hearings will be held three times a week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Top Watch Category in Israeli Politics

This is the latest list showing who the top 6 are and what they’re wearing as advertised in Globes..

Top 6 Watches in Israeli politics

Corruption Case Against Olmert Heating Up

No sooner had former Kadima government finance minister Avraham Hirschson been sentenced to 5 years and 5 months for theft of public funds (among other things) and former Shas Party Health, Labor and Welfare minister Shlomo Benizri lost his bribery appeal (and got sentenced for more than twice the original period of 18 months), millionaire investor Morris Talansky was back in Israel to testify in the continuing investigations against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is facing a number of charges, including being accused of taking more than $300,000 that Talansky was said to have contributed to Olmert’s mayoral campaign in Jerusalem.

talanskyOlmert’s legal problems are a bit different now than they were when Talanasky last appeared in Israel to answer questions concerning the monies he gave to the former prime minister; especially since Olmert is now a private citizen, and as such no longer has the immunity he had as Prime Minister. Talansky himself is under investigation in the USA under suspicion that he illegally transferred large sums of money to Israel under the guise of the money being “contributions”. Besides the noted sum that Talansky is said to have “contributed” to Olmert’s mayoral campaign, there is also the matter of a sum of $150,000 that he is said to have given to Olmert over a period o f years, and used by Olmert for his own personal benefit, including upgrading hotel rooms during trips abroad.

Talansky is under suspicion by American authorities of using his relationship with Olmert to transfer funds illegally to Israel. He noted to reporters that he had been warned against returning to Israel, but felt that he needed to set the record straight. One of the big questions concerning Talansky’s relationship with Olmert was whether Olmert obtained the funds under false pretenses, and whether part of it had been considered to be a bribe. For his part, Talansky only agreed to return to Israel to testify after an agreement had been reached with both Israeli and American authorities in order that his testimony would not incriminate him by returning to Israel.

With two of his former ministers already going “up river” will the former prime minister also be heading in that same direction? Or is he clever enough to find a way out with only a slight “slap on the wrist”. Corruption seems to be becoming more commonplace among government officials and politicians these days, and even former P.M. Ariel Sharon might have had so face similar counts (that led to his son Omri serving a short prison term for miss-use of campaign funds) had Sharon not suffered a severe stroke in January 2006 that has left him comatose and totally incapacitated.

Political Shakshuka the new Israeli Government

Israel finally has a new government, 30 ministers and 7 assistant ministers in all. It appears that the new prime minister (or should I say renewed P.M.) and none other than Bibi Netanyahu, had to give out a lot of new jobs to a lot of new people just to satisfy them, including those from political parties whose overall platforms Bibi and his Likud Party doesn’t usually agree with.

Liberman GladiatorThe new government, when sitting for their first photo session on Wednesday April 1, which was also April Fools Day, looked more like that Middle Eastern tomato and egg dish known as Shakshuka. In fact many observers are calling the new government just that – a “political Shakshuka” of people who ordinarily are screaming at each other during parliamentary sessions, or just ignoring each other at best. Bibi had to really throw a political bone to his new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, whose Israel Our Home Party managed to get 15 Knesset seats in the February 11 election. Lieberman didn’t waste any time in announcing that he would not allow any of the West Bank to be given away to the Palestinians, and does not agree to a peace deal with them. I’m not referring at all to that bunch of low life’s in the Gaza Strip, but to that “other bunch” who sit in Yassir Arafat’s old headquarters in Ramalla.

For those of you not aware, Shakshuka is a tasty dish made by throwing red peppers, tomato sauce, eggs, an a number of spices into a pan and cooking them together for about half an hour. This mixture of ingredients has caused the dish to be named as such; Shakshuka, meaning a mishmash of things thrown together.

Poor Tzipi Livni, now Head of the Opposition, has to sit this one out like Bibi did the last go-around when the Likud only managed to get 11 seats. Now it’s her turn to pout, and many are wondering if her Kadima Party might wind up going into melt-down like Tommy Lapid’s Shinui (Change) party did a few years back. Golda Meir she isn’t, but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of her, and she may even wind up getting the last laugh, when this new government of strange bedfellows finds out they really can’t function as a team. Her image as foreign minister was surely a lot better than this Russian guy who has given Israeli Arabs an ultimatum to “shit or get off the pot”, meaning they better start packing if they aren’t prepared to give a loyalty oath to the Jewish State in which they live.

Other new cabinet members, especially those “good old boys” who have been intensely loyal to Mr. Netanyahu in his darkest moments, have been rewarded; especially Dr. Yuval Steinitz, who appears to be about as qualified for his post as Amir Peretz was as defense minister under the first part of the Olmert regime. But that’s the spoils system for you as has often been the case in American politics as well.

We’ll all have to see whether this new “shakshuka” aspect of Israeli political life will work out. At least one silver lining is already apparent in this possible cloud: a guy named Ehud Olmert is no longer presiding over the entire mess.

The Fish and The Shark

While PM Olmert, Defense Secretary Barak, and the intelligence agencies have failed to do their job and return Gilad Shalit home, the Israeli consulate in New York have managed to make an impact on the Jewish community in the States.

This is a video done a year ago. In it, you see 11 y/o Bronx kids reading the story Gilad Shalit wrote as a child (translated to English).

As the Shalit family and the whole of Israel are facing the fact that Gilad is apparently not coming home any time soon, we have to turn to Gilad’s words themselves to regain some hope — for him, and for a better Israel.

Yuval Arad joins the Fight for Gilad Shalit

Yuval Arad is a young woman, who’s now 24 years old. Her father’s name is Ron Arad, and he has been missing for nearly 23 years, ever since his Phantom plane crashed in Lebanon in 1986, which resulted in him being captured by the Amal Movement, and later handed over to Iran. For the first year and half of his captivity, it was known for sure that Ron is alive, but we have since lost track of him, and his fate remains a mystery.

Yuval Arad grew up without her father, and until recently has kept away from the limelights.

This week she decided to join the fight for the release of Gilad Shalit, visiting his parents in their protest tent in Jerusalem, and granting an interview to Channel 2 news. This matter burns inside of me, she told Oded Ben-Ami. “For the first year and half we knew my father was alive. We know now that Gilad is alive. We can’t know what might be in half a year from now.”

This coming Friday, March the 13th, at 10 am, the public is urged to come and protest together with Gilad’s parents in front of Olmert’s residence in Jerusalem. Olmert is leaving office in less than 2 weeks, and now is the time to pressure the man who could not find a way to release Gilad in the past 3 years. Bus routes 9 and 32 can take you from the Central Bus Station to Olmert’s residence.

Time to Shift Gears

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is preparing to leave office very soon, while on the other side of the border, Gilad Shalit is “celebrating” 1,000 days in captivity this month. It’s time to step up the efforts for Gilad’s release.

Noam and Aviva Shalit, Gilad’s parents, are moving to Jerusalem today, in order to reside inside a protest tent in front of Olmert’s residence. They will remain there until Olmert leaves office, or until Gilad’s return.

Gilad and Noam Shalit

They believe Olmert’s last days in office is a window of opportunity to finally seal the prisoner exchange deal. Gilad was captured on Olmert’s watch, and therefore it is his responsibility to resolve the matter before Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition takes the reigns.

The parents of kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, whose bodies were returned to Israel via a prisoner exchange deal, are joining the Shalit family in Jerusalem, in a joint effort to increase public pressure and awareness.

Shas chairman, Eli Yishai, uttered a remarkably patronizing statement this morning, which I believe precisely captures the government’s stance on Gilad’s captivity: If the protest tent assuages the feelings of the Schalit family, it is a positive thing.

Dear Mr. Yishai, the matter on hand isn’t “assuaging” the Shalit family or the public opinion; it’s releasing Gilad!

Hopes rise for release of captive Israeli soldier

There appears to be increased optimism that captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit may soon be released from his nearly 3 year captivity by Hamas militants in Gaza. Shalit, whose army armor corps unit was attacked on June 25, 2006 while on patrol alongside Israel’s Kerem Shalom border area; was taken back to Gaza by his captors following the ambush on his armored personnel carrier in which two Israeli soldiers were killed and three were wounded. Since then, no actual photographs or video films have been shown to indicate his condition, and only three letters have been given to his parents, Noam and Aviva, to confirm that the young soldier is alive.

Since his capture, intense local and international efforts have been made to secure his release from a captivity that is now in its 961st day. Until now, the release of the young soldier, who has been promoted to Staff Sergeant, has been delayed numerous times by unacceptable demands made by Hamas which has included releasing more than 1,000 Palestinians including several who have been found responsible for involvement in a number of deadly terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

A number of countries have tried to intervene on Shalit’s behalf, including European ones like Germany and France. Due to his holding French nationality, Shalit was recently named an Honorary Citizen of Paris. Even the Catholic Church has tried to gain his release, through its representatives in Gaza; but until now, these efforts have been to no avail. Gilad’s parents have been involved in a number of international rallies to gain more attention to the plight of their son; and recently, Aviva Schalit was featured on a weekend news magazine for the Israeli Channel 2 TV network.

Following the 22 day Operation Cast Lead military actions between Israel and Hamas, diplomatic efforts have been stepped up on Shalit’s behalf, and several meetings have been held in Cairo to work out a deal to gain his release. The Hamas organization, whose infrastructure was severely damaged during the war, which also left more than 1.300 Palestinians dead, appear to want to enter into a long period of quiet with Israel in order to rebuild installations damaged or destroyed. Shalit himself was reported by his captors to have been injured by explosions during the action.

Schalit’s release is now a top priority for the Israeli government and exiting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other government officials are demanding that Shalit be released before Israel agrees to enter into a serious truce with Hamas and other Islamic terror organizations in Gaza. For their part, the Hamas leadership seems to be more in favor of the young soldier’s release, providing certain “conditions” be met, including opening of border crossings to allow sufficient aid and supplies to enter the place that many people refer to as an “open air prison”.

Increased military activity during the past few days, by both the IAF and Hamas militants, could cancel a final deal, however. Also, the number and types of Hamas prisoners that Israel is holding could prevent Schalit’s release, as many of these militants have been involved in the killing of Israeli civilians and therefore have “blood on their hands” The demand for release of a high ranking Fatah personality, Marwan Barghouti, is also a problematic issue.

All everyone can hope for now is that Gilad is alive and in some measure of good health, despite the suffering that both he and his family have endured during this long period.

What’s Up With Olmert?

According to leading commentators, both Minister of Defense Ehud Barak and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni are in favor of pulling the IDF out of Gaza. They understand that there’s nothing more to gain from staying in enemy territory, and that it only puts our soldiers’ lives at risk.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wants to go in deeper.

Three political opponents, who admittedly can’t stand each other, are running a war together, just one month before the general elections. Each has his or her own personal and political interests.

However, there is one person who stand outs in this odd trio. Mr. Olmert is a man with no political future whatsoever. This is as clear as the morning sky in July. He is the only Prime Minister in Israel’s history whose government has had to tackle two separate war campaigns. When he leaves office, there are several corruption allegations that await him impatiently. It is already known for a fact that he will be prosecuted — Perhaps more than once.

The longer the war continues, more and more voices — both in the media and in the Knesset — are calling to postpone the elections. The one person who might gain the most if such a scenario takes place is obviously Ehud Olmert. The prospect of a few more months in power — and a few more months out of the courtroom — could definitely alter any person’s sound judgment.

These are mere speculations of course. It’s inappropriate to lay down such serious accusations without any evidence. There is only a restless gut feeling… and some very bizarre comments made by PM Olmert himself.

During a press conference yesterday, Mr. Olmert boasted in front of the cameras how he had managed to subdue America’s Secretary of State, and how President Bush promptly agreed to abandon the podium in the middle of a speech in order to pick up Olmert’s call.

“I said: ‘Get me President Bush on the phone,'” Olmert said in a speech in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. “They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn’t care: ‘I need to talk to him now.’ He got off the podium and spoke to me.”

Olmert said he argued that the United States should not vote in favor, and the president then called Rice and told her not to do so.

“She was left pretty embarrassed,” Olmert said.

   – Associated Press

Another childish remark soon followed this self-accounted tale of international diplomacy. “In this struggle between the Hamas and us, we shall see who has the bigger motivation!”, he said firmly.

Yes, our Prime Minister is busy comparing who has the bigger… hmm… missiles.

Ticking Tunnel

We’re all familiar with the term a “ticking bomb“. This morning I learned a new term: a “ticking tunnel“.

Apparently a ticking tunnel was the reason behind the operation in Gaza last night. The Israeli intelligence community warned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cabinet that the Palestinians are keen on abducting more soldiers and that they already have a tunnel (or several) in place underneath the border.

Personally, I think that’s a very legitimate reason to go out on a mission to demolish the tunnel. However, I find the mentality of a “ticking tunnel” disturbing. It’s a discourse that primes preemptive strikes, and one that broadens our militaristic viewpoint of the world. In other words, are we going to be talking about “ticking towns” and a “ticking instigator” anytime soon?

The action was probably necessary. The language is totalitarian.

Gaza Tunnel - Photo by Alon Golan

Gaza Tunnel - Photo by Alon Golan

Transit Governments

  • Tzipi Livni has decided last night to forego her last attempts in assembling a parliamentary coalition. This means we’re heading into general elections within 3 to 4 months, probably somewhere in middle February 2009.
  • Municipal elections in Israel are slated for November 11.
  • While the US Presidential elections are due November 4.
  • On top of it all, Abu Mazen, president of the Palestinian Authority, is ending his term in office come January. Hamas has already declared that his people will not regarded Abu Mazzen as a legitimate president if the dejected man decides to remain in office despite the deadline. If such a scenario materializes — and there is high probability it will — then the West Bank might turn into a bloodbath between Fatah and Hamas.

Back to Olmert… As the head of a transit government, he has no public mandate to craft new policies or to resume diplomatic negotiations, yet nevertheless he is still Prime Minister for at least 3 more months.

And as of today he has to deal not only with the Iranian threat, the financial crisis, and the possibility of a looming chaos in the West Bank; but also with the growing tensions between the Settlers and the Israeli army.

If you haven’t heard yet, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) dismantled tonight a tiny unauthorized settlement outside of Hebron — that belonged to far-right-extremist Noam Federman. As a result, several people in the Jewish Settlers community called out to kill Israeli soldiers as retaliation!

Despite his lack of public or parliamentary support, and while several indictments are awaiting him in court, he has to face the threats of both a Palestinian civil conflict as well as a Jewish civil conflict.

EndWeek

Keshet’s “Eretz Nehederet” (“Wonderful Land”) has been the most highly rated TV satire in Israel in the past several years. This month, a new show, airing in the same Friday night slot, aims to be the new “Eretz Nehederet”.

The new show is titled “Shavuah Sof”. It can be translated to English as “EndWeek” — a play on the word weekend, which also means “wonderful week”.

Here’s an excerpt from the first episode, where you can see Uri Gotliv hacking into PM Olmert’s computer, guessing his password (“money123″), browsing his documents, reading his emails, and looking at his contact list (listen to the names).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNZTRJshgLE[/youtube]

Sexist Politics

Ehud Barak is playing hard to get with Tzipi Livni, being the last politician to avoid her so far. But we’ve seen how hard to get he had been with Olmert, despite all his promises to resign the government. (hard as a *****)

Barak at the Pentagon in 1999
Image via Wikipedia

What has suddenly changed? Tzipi will proceed exactly where Olmert left off, and that’s exactly what Barak himself demanded a few months back.

Obviously this is a tactic move, part of the negotiation process — but would we see him similarly avoiding Shaul Mofaz, had the former Chief of Staff were elected Kadima chairman? Probably not. I believe Barak is only doing this because Livni’s a woman, and he thinks it’d be easy to throw her off balance.

Yes, he fits the sexist type.

BTW (Off topic),
Don’t have a ticket to go see Paul McCartney at the park on Thursday? No worries! Channel 10 will broadcast the whole event live!

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Do not forget Gilad

Since Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev had been lay to rest, the topic of Gilad Shalit has largely disappeared from the media. As cynical as it may sound, Gilad’s parents don’t manage to draw enough attention or to foster enough sympathy as did Karnit, Ehud’s widow.

Despite the overwhelming support the Israeli public had for the “deal” with Hezbollah, it was still controversial, and it has made the public reluctant to release more prisoners in the near future. And on top of this all, Olmert’s resignation and the scuffles of his successors will continue to draw our attention for at least another month. So Gilad’s pleas are now placed on the back burner, and I find it very disturbing.

I urge everyone in the Israeli public and the Israeli media to keep this issue at the top of our national concerns and at the top of the headlines. The time to free Gilad is NOW.

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