Ehud Olmert

Israel News for December 29, 2015

Court Appeals
In March of 2014, Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen convicted former Jerusalem mayor and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of accepting bribes when he served as mayor of Jerusalem in exchange for helping the developers of the Holyland Park residential project in the city. Thirteen other government officials and businessmen were also convicted, including former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski.

Rozen found Olmert guilty of two bribery charges and said he accepted 560,000 shekels ($160,000) from developers of the Holyland project. Prosecutors had alleged he received more than 800,000 shekels, but he was acquitted on two other corruption charges.

Olmert was sentenced to six years in prison, and fined 1 million shekels. The amount of the bribes he was said to have received, 560,000 shekels, was also ordered to be confiscated from him. Lupolianski was convicted of seven counts of accepting bribes for donations given to the nonprofit organization he founded and had run, Yad Sarah. Lupolianski was sentenced to six years in prison.

Today the High Court of Justice accepted an appeal by Olmert, acquitted him on the main bribery charge and reduced his prison sentence to 18 months instead of 6 years. Uri Lupolianski sentence was reduced from 6 years to 6 months of community service due to health reasons. Many of the other convicted men’s sentences were also reduced by the court.

After the decision on his appeal, Olmert said: “A great weight was lifted from my heart when the Supreme Court ruled in its decision that I was acquitted on the central charge that was the Holyland affair, and ruled that I am innocent in this affair.”

Unfortunately for him, he was still convicted on a lesser bribery charge and sent to prison for a year and a half. Nothing to be proud of. On the bright side, Olmert is expected to ask President Rivlin for a pardon.

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Northern Tensions
Tensions are escalating on Israel’s northern border in the aftermath of the killing of Samir Kuntar last week, and following Hassan Nasrallah’s speech on Sunday in which he promised to retaliate against Israel for the killing. “The response for the assassination of Kuntar is coming, there’s no doubt” he said in a ceremony marking a week since Kuntar was killed.

Farmers on Israel’s northern border say they have not experienced this level of security tensions since the second Lebanon War in 2006. For the first time in nearly ten years they are not allowed to work their lands situated close to the border, the rear gates of their settlements have been locked, roads have been closed and there is a massive increase in military and police presence.

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Suspect Released
A Petach Tikva court yesterday released one of the suspects in the Duma arson case to house arrest. The suspect, an 18 year old Israeli, was arrested a month ago by the Shin Bet and was blocked from meeting with his lawyer for 18 days. After a month long interrogation, the police could not find enough evidence to make a case against him. But they did discover that he might have taken part in beating a Palestinian man two years ago, which is why he’ll remain under house arrest for the time being.

The Honenu organization, which is representing the released youth, said:

“This is a scandal. After 29 days of harsh interrogation by the Shin Bet, shaking, sleep deprivation, and physical and emotional abuse, it turns out that the only claim against this teenager is that he was involved in a brawl with Bedouin nearly two years ago. We hope that an investigative committee will be established to examine the conduct of the Shin Bet and the State of Israel’s other enforcement authorities in this case.”

The youth’s family said: “After 30 days in which our son suffered brutal abuse that included humiliation and harsh violence it turns out that he is accused of involvement in a brawl from two years ago. All the Shin Bet justifications for abusing our son as if he was a suspect in the Duma murder proves our claims that the Shin Bet has been lying and deceiving the legal system and the public.”

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First Lady
Sara Netanyahu is scheduled to be questioned by police on Thursday over her involvement in what has become known as the Prime Minister’s residences affair.

The affair mainly consists of the suspicion that the Netanyahus presented payments to service providers at their private home in Caesarea as though they related to their official residence in Jerusalem, and thus obtained state funding for their private expenses. In one instance, garden furniture reportedly purchased for the official residence was used at the Caesarea private home. Another incident being investigated concerns work done by an electrician at the Caesarea home.

The Netanyahus claim that they had no knowledge of the wrongdoings and that the residence manager made all of the purchasing decisions. That seems reasonable enough.

And if they did use the garden furniture at their private home, does anyone here really care?

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Billions Lost
Since the start of the recent wave of terror the Palestinian economy has has lost five billion shekels according to Azami Abd A-Rahman, the official responsible for economic policy in the Palestinian Ministry of Economy.

He said the hardest hit areas include East Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramallah and Nablus. He added that the tourist industry lost hundreds of millions of shekels because thousands of foreign tourists cancelled their trips to East Jerusalem and Bethlehem for Christmas and the New Years.

A-Rahman also claimed that due to the increased violence in the West Bank over 6,000 Palestinians were hospitalized, which cost the Palestinian Authority a quarter of a million shekels. In addition the increase in checkpoints in the West Banks and the block on trade with Gaza cost an additional two million shekels. He also said that the security situation led to a decrease in investments and loans available in the Palestinian Authority.

Perhaps it’s time to curb the violence?

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ISIS Fears
According to a German reporter who spent 10 days with ISIS last year in Iraq and Syria, while the Islamic State doesn’t think much of the US and Russian military, they’re pretty darn scared of the IDF.

Jürgen Todenhöfer, 75 and a former member of the German Parliament, spent time with ISIS doing research for his recently published book, “My 10 Days in the Islamic State.” Regarding the ISIS view of Israel he said, “They think they can defeat U.S. and U.K. ground troops, who they say they have no experience in city guerrilla or terrorist strategies. But they know the Israelis are very tough as far as fighting against guerrillas and terrorists”

“They are not scared of the British and the Americans, they are scared of the Israelis and told me the Israeli army is the real danger. We can’t defeat them with our current strategy. These people [the IDF] can fight a guerrilla war.”

Todenhöfer described the stages of ISIS’ plan for world domination: First to conquer all the Middle East, except for Israel. Then to conquer the West and the rest of the world.

So it looks like Israel might not have to get directly involved in fighting ISIS for a while. Hopefully never.

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