Ehud Olmert

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Israel's ex-head of government, Ehud Olmert

Ehud Olmert (born September 30, 1945) is the former Prime Minister of Israel. Olmert became the interim Prime Minister on April 14, 2006 but had been exercising the powers of the office as Acting Prime Minister since they were transferred to him on January 4, 2006 after Ariel Sharon suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke.[1] His position as head of government was confirmed upon the formation of the 31st government on May 4, 2006. He is a member of the Kadima political party.

Olmert has previously been the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Finance Minister, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, and Minister responsible for the Israel Lands Administration, as well as Mayor of Jerusalem.[2]


In the 1970s, Olmert was rumored to be a party to a complex scheme involving well-known Jerusalem businessmen, organized crime, corrupt legislators, and retired General Rechavam Ze'evi. This affair was documented in investigative journalist Aryeh Avneri's Ha'tvusa in 1992. During the run-up to the Ze'evi libel suit, Olmert allegedly took funds from the Likud treasury for his defense fund, although his lawyers were from his own law firm. All accusations against Olmert were eventually settled out of court.

Israeli businessman David Appel has been suspected of bribing both Sharon and Olmert, while the latter was the Mayor of Jerusalem, in what is known as the Greek island affair. However, in June 2004 Israel's Attorney General decided to close the case without criminal proceedings, because of lack of evidence.

On 7 March2006, it was disclosed that an inquiry was being carried out on the 1999 sale and lease-back of Olmert's Jerusalem house, which allegedly was done on financial terms very favorable to Olmert, in what would amount to be an illegal campaign contribution and/or bribe.[3] A criminal investigation regarding this matter was formally launched on 24 September2007.[4]

On 16 January2007, a criminal investigation was initiated against Olmert. The investigation focused on suspicions that during his tenure as finance minister, Olmert tried to steer the tender for the sale of Bank Leumi in order to help Slovak-born Australian real estate baron Frank Lowy, a close personal associate.[5] Israeli Police who investigated the case eventually concluded that the evidence that was collected was insufficient for indictment and no recommendations to press charges were made.[6]

After the criticism of Olmert's decision making by the Winograd Commission in its Preliminary report, many expected him to leave office, including his foreign minister Tzippi Livni. The final report of the commission turned out to be more positive about Olmert than expected, which derailed the protests demanding his resignation.

In April 2007 it was further alleged that, during his office as Minister of Trade, Industry and Labor, Olmert may have been guilty of criminal behavior by taking an active part in an investment center.[7] During a parliamentary inquest in July 2007, Olmert flatly denied these accusations.[8]

In May 2008, it became public that Olmert was the subject of another police investigation. The details are confidential due to a court's gag order, but Israeli journalists to whom key details have reportedly been leaked hinted that the investigation concerns bribery allegations.[9] [10] Olmert said that he took campaign contributions from the from the Jewish-American businessman Morris Talansky when he was running for Mayor of Jerusalem, leadership of the Likud and candidacy in the Likud list for the Knesset, but resisted calls to resign, and stated: "I never took bribes, I never took a penny for myself. I was elected by you, citizens of Israel, to be the prime minister and I don't intend to shirk this responsibility. If Attorney General Meni Mazuz decides to file an indictment, I will resign from my position, even though the law does not oblige me to do so."[11] [12] On May 23, National Fraud Squad investigators interrogated Olmert for an hour in his Jerusalem residence for a second time about corruption allegations. It was the 5th probe since he became prime minister and no charges had been yet filed.[13][14]

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  1. Hasson, Nir (11 April 2006). Cabinet approves appointment of Ehud Olmert as interim PM (HTML). Retrieved on 2006-11-06.
  2. Knesset Members. Ehud Olmert
  3. "Israel comptroller checks Olmert’s house purchase". Daily Times. 2006-03-07. Archived from the original on 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  4. "Israeli police to investigate Olmert house purchase". Reuters. 2007-09-24. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  5. "PM to face criminal investigation over Bank Leumi sale affair". Haaretz. 2007-01-17. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  6. "Zelekha: I'll step down in December". Jerusalem post. 2007-11-10. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  7. "Comptroller accuses PM of 'corruption'". Jerusalem Post. 2007-04-25. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  8. "Olmert answers corruption accusations". New Age International. 2007-07-26. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  9. Ethan Bronner (May 5, 2008). "Israeli Political Crisis Overshadows Rice’s Trip". New York Times. 
  10. Israel Scandal's LI Link, Kate Sheehy, New York Post, May 6, 2008
  11., Olmert refuses to step down amid corruption scandal
  12., Olmert: I'll resign if indicted
  13., Israeli police question PM Olmert again
  14., Olmert questioned on 'corruption'