ZF crit­i­cised for ‘per­verse’ din­ner in­vi­ta­tion to dis­graced Olmert

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY BEN WEICH

THE ZION­IST Fed­er­a­tion (ZF) has come un­der fire af­ter it reve­caled that Ehud Olmert, the dis­graced for­mer Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter, will ad­dress its 120th an­niver­sary din­ner.

Olmert was con­victed in 2014 of ac­cept­ing bribes and ob­struct­ing jus­tice. The charges re­lated to a pe­riod in 2006 when he was serv­ing as Mayor of Jerusalem and Trade Min­is­ter. He was re­leased in July 2017 af­ter serv­ing 16 months of a 27-month sen­tence.

Gavin Gross, a for­mer di­rec­tor of the ZF, ques­tioned the de­ci­sion to host Mr Olmert, say­ing that the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter is “fiercely un­re­pen­tant and claims the bribery con­vic­tions were a con­spir­acy against him.”

Stephen Hoff­man, a for­mer ZF cam­paigns of­fi­cer, de­scribed the in­vi­ta­tion as “per­verse”, and said that Mr Olmert “em­bar­rassed Is­rael on the world stage”.

Olmert, who served as Prime Min­is­ter from 2006 un­til 2009, will be in­ter­viewed at the Fe­bru­ary 24 din­ner by Rageh Omaar, ITV’s in­ter­na­tional af­fairs ed­i­tor.

Paul Char­ney, the ZF chair­man, de­fended the in­vi­ta­tion, say­ing: “He has a story to tell and he will be held to some tough ques­tion­ing by an ob­jec­tive, pro­fes­sional, renowned in­ter­viewer”.

He added: “We at the ZF want to bring rel­e­vant, in­ter­est­ing and even con­tro­ver­sial speak­ers that the com­mu­nity will be fas­ci­nated to hear from.”

Olmert is seen by some as the Prime Min­is­ter who came clos­est to strik­ing a peace deal with the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity.

A 2008 of­fer, which in­cluded plac­ing Jerusalem’s Old City un­der in­ter­na­tional con­trol, was re­jected by Mah­moud Ab­bas.

Rabbi Lea Mühlstein, the in­ter­na­tional chair of Arzenu, the Fed­er­a­tion of Re­form and Pro­gres­sive Re­li­gious Zion­ists that sits on the ZF, de­fended Mr Olmert’s in­vi­ta­tion, say­ing it “might prove to be a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity to demon­strate that Is­rael has a well-func­tion­ing and in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary.”

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