Olmert in cri­sis

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

The sec­ond is Uriel Messer, a long­time friend and con­fi­dant of Mr Olmert; the two were part­ners in the same Jerusalem law firm. The po­lice, act­ing first on ev­i­dence raised by in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the State Comptroller’s Of­fice look­ing into an­other al­le­ga­tion against Mr Olmert, sus­pect that Mr Talan­sky and Mr Messer served as a con­duit to trans­fer funds to var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal and per­sonal in­ter­ests of Mr Olmert dur­ing the nine years he served as Jerusalem mayor.

Both Mr Talan­sky and Mr Messer have been un­der pres­sure to act as state wit­nesses, and the re­quest to the court on Tues­day was in or­der to al­low Mr Talan­sky to give tes­ti­mony and re­turn to the United States. The dis­trict court will give its rul­ing in the next few days. Mean­while po­lice have been wor­ried for Mr Messer’s wel­fare and on Mon­day were ur­gently search­ing for him in Tel Aviv, un­til he was lo­cated walk­ing on the Ayalon Free­way.

The case against Mr Olmert erupted last Thurs­day when it emerged that the po­lice had asked At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Me­na­hem Mazuz for his au­tho­ri­sa­tion to con­duct an “emer­gency” ques­tion­ing of Mr Olmert in the next 48 hours.

This was the only de­tail the me­dia was al­lowed to pub­lish, aside from the fact that in ad­di­tion to Mr Olmert, his long-time bureau chief Shula Zaken had also been ques­tioned and put un­der house ar­rest. All other in­for­ma­tion was sub­ject to a 30-day blan­ket gag or­der is­sued by the court on the po­lice’s re­quest.

A num­ber of Is­raeli news or­gan­i­sa­tions have tried to con­test the or­der, but to no avail. At first, the po­lice said that any pub­li­ca­tion would sabotage their in­ves­ti­ga­tions, but fol­low­ing rev­e­la­tions in Amer­i­can news­pa­pers, they changed their tune, rea­son­ing that it would not be fit­ting to pub­lish the al­le­ga­tions be­fore Re­mem­brance Day and In­de­pen­dence Day. The gag or­der is ex­pected to be re­scinded to­day (Fri­day).

The gag or­der also pre­vented the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice from re­spond­ing to the al­le­ga­tions and ru­mours. Mr Olmert had to make do with an an­nounce­ment he read out at the Cabi­net meet­ing on Sun­day in which he said: “Since Wed­nes­day, a wave of ru­mours has been go­ing around the coun­try, some ma­li­cious and vi­cious. I prom­ise that when things will be clear, the sus­pi­cions will go away and the cloud will dis­perse.”

Mr Olmert’s of­fice tried to project “busi­ness as usual”, the PM hold­ing meet­ings with US Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice and Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas and tak­ing part in all the Re­mem­brance and In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tions, but he can­celled sched­uled in­ter­views.

Of­fi­cials in his of­fice ad­mit­ted to the JC that they had gone in to “siege mode”, cut­ting off all of­fi­cial con­tact with the me­dia. A planned in­ter­view of one of Mr Olmert’s clos­est aides with the JC was also can­celled. “There is a huge bala­gan [mess] go­ing on here right now,” one of the of­fi­cials told the JC.


Mr Olmert pic­tured at the Day of Re­mem­brance cer­e­mony on Wed­nes­day

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