Olmert faces political ruin over bribes inquiry
A NEW, potentially devastating corruption investigation into the financial affairs of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatens to unseat him.
If Mr Olmert, who was questioned by police under caution last Friday, and will be questioned again next week, is formally charged, he will be forced to resign. The investigation involves at least two of Mr Olmert’s closest associates, who have been repeatedly questioned over the past few days. One is believed to be considering turning state’s witness.
“The State of Israel against Ehud Olmert” is the heading of a document handed to the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday morning by the Justice Ministry. For the time being, this is not an official charge-sheet; it is an application for the court to hear “preparatory testimony” for a case that may never take place. But it is the closest the Israeli judiciary has ever come to putting a serving prime minister on trial, and the investigation has cast a pall over the 60th-anniversary celebrations.
Mr Olmert is no stranger to police investigations. But the swift and resolute fashion in which the police and Justice Ministry have conducted themselves is being seen as indicating that this time, they believe they have the necessary evidence to press charges against him for bribe-taking.
Two potential witnesses have emerged in the case so far. The first is Moshe (Morris) Talansky, a Long Island businessman and realtor with family in Israel. Mr Talansky has been a major and longstanding fundraiser for various Israeli institutions such as Shaare Tzedek Hospital, the Jerusalem College of Technology (where one of his sons teaches) and the New Jerusalem Foundation.