ZF criticised for ‘perverse’ dinner invitation to disgraced Olmert
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.”